Organizations make promises. We make them when we hire. We make them when we talk about our organization. We make them when we communicate to our donors. We make them when we talk to our staff. We make them in our policies. If we preach, we make them in our messages.
Staff members hear those promises whether they are implicit or explicit and they respect us when we keep them and grow cynical when we don't. Above all they expect us to be serious about the promises we make. As they should.
When we say "People are our most valuable asset" but don't develop them, empower them or treat them with dignity and respect our actions do not live up to our promises. If we talk about integrity but leaders do not display it in decisions they make we don't live up to our promises.
One of my deepest fears when we bring new staff into our organization is that they will find themselves in a situation where what we promise in our "sandbox" will not be what they find. In fact, at our recent bi annual leadership team meeting we spent the whole week discussing where we were in living out the promises and commitments of our sandbox (mission, guiding principles, central ministry focus and culture). It was a "check/adjust" to ensure that we deliver on our promises.
Staff do not expect perfection but they do expect that we are consistent in keeping our promises to the best of our ability and where there are gaps working to close them. They need to know that we are serious about becoming who we say we aspire to be.
A simple way to know how well we are doing is to have honest dialogue with staff about how they perceive we are doing. Of course this means that we are able to receive that feedback with appreciation rather than defensiveness. Staff can give a perspective that leaders often do not see.
Think about the promises you or your organization makes implicitly or explicitly and evaluate how you are doing. The good thing is that there is always room for improvement.