#213 – Integrity Idea 043: Create a Cue Card

Integrity Ideas are specific actions a leader can consider during the Re-Align step of Integriosity®–actions that will begin to Re-Align the organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.  You can find more Integrity Ideas at Integrous | Integrity Ideas (integriosity.com)

Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  We believe some are critical (and necessary) steps in the RENEW/RE-ALIGN/RE-IMAGINE/RESTORE process.  Others are just ideas to be considered if they feel like a good fit based on what leaders prayerfully discern is best for stewarding the organization toward its WHY.

“Create a Cue Card” falls into the “if it fits” category.  It is just one simple idea to help employees understand and remember what is important for maintaining the intentional culture of the organization.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Create a Cue Card.

“Create a Cue Card” is about literally creating a pocket-sized card that helps employees remember values, principles or practices critical to ensuring that the organization’s behavior aligns with its purpose.

“Create a Cue Card” recognizes that the world will keep pushing your employees back toward business as usual, and your organization is more likely to remain on the ancient path of business a better way toward Biblical flourishing if they have a tangible reminder of “how we do things around here.

“Create a Cue Card” recognizes that in order for a bigger WHY to define and drive behavior toward faithful integrity through business a better way, it must become the organization’s culture, and in order for a vision to become the culture, it must be translated through values and have commitment from the top, buy-in at all levels and constant reinforcement.

The Importance of Culture

You have probably heard it said that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, yet so many organizations either ignore culture or even cultivate a toxic culture.  As we have said many times in prior posts, purpose and values define the culture of an organization; the culture shapes the behavior of the people in the organization; and the behavior of the people drives the results of the organization.

Seth Godin has observed: “Culture is . . . corroded by shortcuts and by inattention, and fed by constant investment and care.”  Godin writes prolifically about culture and has emphasized, “Be clear and consistent about how we do things around here.”

Culture is important because it defines the day-to-day experience that various stakeholders have with the organization.  It is how employees experience their work-day, how vendors experience contract negotiations and contract performance, and how customers experience interacting with the organization.

Unlike lofty purpose statements and value lists, culture is where the rubber meets the road and the boots hit the ground.  It drives whether people are engaged or disengaged, flourishing or dying, competing or collaborating.

The Importance of the Tangible Word

The importance of identifying what is important, committing it to writing, and proclaiming it, actually comes straight out of Scripture:

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.”  (Habakkuk 2:2)

There are several key elements in God’s simple answer:

Identify What Is Important:  We believe people really want to do well at their work.  If they understand and are energized by a bigger WHY, they want to work in a way that furthers that WHY rather than undermines it.  It is the job of a faithful leader to give people tools to succeed in furthering the organization’s WHY, and that includes identifying important values, principles and practices that will help shape the organization’s Re-Imagined Culture.

Make It Plain.  If values, principles and practices are to be something people can “run” with when they read them, they need to be in a form people can understand and use on a moment’s notice.  Simplifying is hard work that takes time.  A 10-page formal “ethics policy” may be useful in justifying an employee’s termination or satisfying regulators, but it is of little practical help to the employee trying to operate on a daily basis with faithful integrity by doing the right thing in the right way.

Write It Down.  We don’t think God’s command to Habakkuk means simply write something down and stick it in a drawer, bury it in an employee handbook or post it on an intranet.  God told Habakkuk to write it down so that someone could “run” with it.  “Create a Cue Card” envisions writing what matters on a card people could actually put in their pocket and “run” with!

People May “Run” With It.  God told Habakkuk “run”–not “walk as slowly as possible”.  People will not “run” with a vision unless they are inspired by it and feel ownership of it.  Putting it on a cue card endorsed by a faithful leader and introducing it in a way that ties its importance to the organization’s heart says, “this is important to who we are and to what we stand for as an organization pursuing a bigger WHY“.

The Nature of a Cue Card

When we talk about a “cue card”, we are not talking about the precursor to the teleprompter–the large cards showing everything a performer or newscaster is to say.  We are talking about the small cards a speaker will use to guide their presentation.

The website teleprompter.com helpfully explains:

The beauty of cue cards lies in their ability to distill complex ideas into succinct points, offering a safety net that empowers speakers to confidently convey their message without the constraints of a rigid script.

“Create a Cue Card” is about a tool that empowers employees to confidently operate in alignment with the organization’s purpose, values and culture without the constraints of an employee handbook or ethics manual.

CONTINUUM: Practices

The Integriosity model organizes “heart change” along six Covert-Overt Continuums.  There is nothing magic about these categories, but we believe they are helpful in thinking about practical execution of a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture.  The Continuums are Prayer, Proclamation, Policies, Practices, Products, People.

Each Continuum represents an area in which leaders can begin to think about, plan and institute Re-Alignment changes to the heart of the organization.

“Create a Cue Card” is on the Practices Continuum. It is a practice the organization can adopt to recall, affirm and protect its commitment to prioritizing its Re-Imagined Purpose by continually reminding its stakeholders of the WHY that should guide and inform “how we do things around here”–the organization’s Re-Imagined Culture.

COVERT-OVERT RATING: Highly Covert

The Integriosity model breaks the Covert-Overt Continuums into six gradations–from Highly Covert to Highly Overt–that we believe are helpful in beginning to pray and think about what is most appropriate for an organization at a particular moment in time.

Most Integrity Ideas will have one place on the scale.  Some can vary depending on how they are implemented.  “Create a Cue Card” is Highly Covert (an action that would be taken by a secular company) because even a secular organization would benefit from giving its employees a reminder of what is expected.

“Create a Cue Card” can also be Overt (An overtly faith-based action known generally within the organization) if the leader chooses to express the cue card reminders in terms of Biblical beliefs, principles or priorities.

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees

When we categorize faith-based actions, we also consider the stakeholders principally impacted by the action: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community and Kingdom.

“Create a Cue Card” principally serves employees by setting clear expectations for organizational behavior and providing a helpful tool for remembering what is expected.

Be clear and consistent about how we do things around here. (Seth Godin)

IMPLEMENTATION

While many Integrity Ideas can be complicated or costly to implement, “Create a Cue Card” is straightforward–once a faithful leader has determined what to put on the cue card.

Of course, it is futile to try to implement “Create a Cue Card” until the organization has settled on a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture, because the purpose of the cue card is to distill the most important operating principles and practices that will help employees conduct themselves in a way that aligns with the organization’s purpose, values and culture.

Faithful leaders should engage in a prayerful discernment process to determine what should be on the cue card.  It might be as simple as a reminder of the organization’s values.  Alternatively, it might be more operational or practical in nature.

We think the most helpful thing we can offer are a few examples.

Example #1–International Telesystems Corporation–Remember Our Values

Bob Varney was a faithful leader and the CEO of International Telesystems Corporation.  In that role, he developed a cue card that he would personally hand to each prospective employee in order to ensure that they understood the culture they were about to join–“how we do things around here.”  Bob was kind enough to provide us with a photo of that card, which was focused on the organization’s values.

Example #2–Apple–Principles for How to Succeed Here

John Brandon was a faithful leader and held various roles with Apple, retiring as Vice President of International.  Although Brandon was not in a position to create a cue card for all of Apple or one that overty expressed his faith perspective, he did create a cue card for those who worked under him, setting out how he expected salespeople “to do things around here”.   Here is an image of what was called “JB’s Rules for Success”.

Example #3–Seth Godin’s “How We Do Things Around Here”–How We Should Interact and Work Together

We frequently quote Seth Godin’s brilliant advice on organizational culture.  His blog post from February 13, 2020, was actually titled “How We Do Things Around Here” and set forth a sample list that provides another example of potential cue card ideas (except that we like cilantro).

We always answer emails to each other within a day, even if it’s just to say ‘got it’.

You’re invited as a guest into a purpose-built room in our Slack.

We’ll pay your invoices before they’re due.

We agree that all of our interactions are off the record, unless we agree otherwise.

We’ll never use legalese or intentionally trick you with loopholes in our agreements. Instead, we’ll be as clear as we can and honor what we said, and expect that you’ll do the same.

If we’re not sure, we’ll ask each other.

We don’t miss deadlines.

We don’t sprint at the end, we sprint at the beginning.

We don’t make compromises simply because bad planning means that we’re running out of time.

We eagerly highlight the potholes ahead, but spend no time casting blame after something fails.

We are intentional and specific about the work. “Who is it for” and “what is it for?” are the two key design questions.

We don’t use semi-colons or animated emojis.

If it’s not working, we’ll say so, and do it with specificity and kindness.

We’ll pay a lot but expect to get more than we paid for.

No cilantro. Of course.

In his book For Goodness Sake, Chris Houston writes:

The enterprise that becomes purposeful does not do so solely because of extraordinary leadership, though that helps. Instead, it is a host of small yet intentional decisions made by extraordinary leaders, yes, but also by every rank-and-file member of the organization that accumulate to produce a cascade of movement in a positive direction.

We believe “Create a Cue Card” is one way for intentional leaders to help ensure that the everyday decisions of “every rank and file member of the organization” produce a “cascade of movement” toward faithful integrity through business a better way toward Biblical flourishing.  A cue card is a tool to assist alignment of the organization’s Re-Imagined Culture with its Re-Imagined Values and Re-Imagined Purpose.

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM):  Although I have only had the opportunity to meet John Brandon (when he was involved with the New Canaan Society–here is an interview of Brandon by Eric Metaxas at the 2012 NCS San Francisco Weekend) and Seth Godin, I have the honor of calling Bob Varney a friend.  I remember the first time he showed me the ITC cue card more than 10 years ago.  It was the inspiration for this post.  Bob was ahead of his time as a faithful leader intentionally shaping an organizational culture.  Today he is helping shape flourishing city cultures throughout the world as the CEO and President of Cities Project Global.  The vision of Cities Project Global is aligned with everything Integrous is about:

We see a world where leaders live out their calling, transforming their cities into flourishing centers for the common good of all people.  Just as God Intended.

ESSENCE:  Integrity Ideas are specific actions a faithful leader can consider in leading faithfully through business a better way.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Create a Cue Card

COVERT-OVERT CONTINUUM (six Continuums for action):  Practices

COVERT-OVERT RATING (several levels from Highly Covert to Highly Overt): Highly Covert

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees

Most Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  “Create a Cue Card” is about literally creating a pocket-sized card that helps employees remember values, principles or practices critical to ensuring that the organization’s behavior aligns with its purpose.  “Create a Cue Card” recognizes that the world will keep pushing your employees back toward business as usual, and your organization is more likely to remain on the ancient path of business a better way toward Biblical flourishing if they have a tangible reminder of “how we do things around here. “Create a Cue Card” recognizes that in order for a bigger WHY to define and drive behavior toward faithful integrity through business a better way, it must become the organization’s culture, and in order for a vision to become the culture, it must be translated through values and have commitment from the top, buy-in at all levels and constant reinforcement.  

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Photo credit: Original photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash (photo cropped)