The essential behaviors in healthy, successful people and organizations - SmartBrief

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The essential behaviors in healthy, successful people and organizations

Here are the research-backed values, attitudes and behaviors shown by great organzations.

4 min read



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When people are at their best, they display a set of healthy high-performance behaviors. We believe these are the innate behaviors we see in young children like curiosity, openness and trust. These behaviors also seem to be universal, as we have found them to be essentially the same in over 40 countries around the world, and in K-8th grade schools as well as in Fortune 100 clients.

Most of our research data validating the concepts is from organizations. As a part of the culture-shaping work, we help our clients refresh or reconnect to their values. Senn Delaney’s work in an organization includes a customized off-site session with the CEO and his or her senior team. Toward the end of the session, after discussing and experiencing the modes of behavior they consider most enjoyable, productive, and rewarding, the team members usually find themselves at the top levels of the Mood Elevator, feeling and operating at their best.

The Mood Elevator is an awareness tool Senn Delaney uses to describe our moment-to-moment experience of life. It encompasses a wide range of feelings and together, these emotions play a major role in defining the quality of our lives as well as our effectiveness.

It’s at this moment toward the end of the session, we ask them to define how they want to relate to one another once they are back at work — and how they want to people to behave and work together throughout the organization. In response, the leadership team compiles a list of values that define a healthy, high-performing culture. The remarkable thing is that the lists are essentially the same. That led us to conclude that any group in a healthy place — higher on the Mood Elevator — tends to gravitate toward the same fundamental attitudes and behaviors.

We compiled these into a list of what we call the “Essential Organizational Values.” We further validated the essential values with input from over 100,000 people who completed our culture impact survey.

Larry Senn

Here are the eight essential organizational values: attitudes and behaviors found up the Mood Elevator:

  1. Positive spirit/vitality. Creating an environment where there is teamwork, mutual support, and cooperation between and among people. Where people are fun to be around, proud of what they do, and willing to put in the effort that is beyond normal expectations.
  2. Collaboration/trust. Creating frequent and open two-way communication with people, and maintaining openness and trust among people with high levels of feedback and coaching.
  3. Appreciation/recognition. Appreciating and valuing people, and recognizing and rewarding performance.
  4. Agility/innovation/growth. Encouraging people to innovate, create, and be open to change. Empowering people, and having a bias for action and an urgency to move forward.
  5. Customer/quality focus. Having a high focus on and awareness of quality and customer service.
  6. Ethics/integrity. Acting with honesty and integrity. Core values and ethics are very important and decisions are made for the greater good of the organization. Seeing healthy differences and diversity as strengths.
  7. Performance orientation. Having high expectations for performance and accountability for actions and results. Being a self-starter.
  8. Direction/purpose. Providing a sense of direction and purpose. Having clear alignment connection to achieving the organization’s strategic goals.

The list comprises all the behaviors that come naturally to people on the higher floors of the Mood Elevator, but elude them when they are on the lower floors. We’ve found that most successful teams and organizations live these essential values better than others. As a result, the individuals who belong to these groups usually find that they can spend more time up the Mood Elevator — at curious and above — and they are happier, more creative, and more productive.


Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles, in 1978. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is “The Mood Elevator” (August 2017), the follow-up to his 2012 book, “Up the Mood Elevator.”

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