LADDERS: A Model for Scaling Constructive Behaviours in Your Organization

“It’s important that we reach out to them, and see it from their perspective.” “We need to be able to speak up, express our emotions, and say what’s on our mind.” “Let’s reflect on that option. I’m sure that with a bit of creative re-jigging, we can find a better solution.”

Those are all constructive  responses to conflict. When acted on,  those constructive behaviours deescalate conflict. People who exhibit constructive behaviours are a plus to themselves, and their organization.

The flip side is destructive behaviours; winning at all costs, avoiding conflict, retaliating, and the like. Destructive behaviours fuel the negative fires in people. Casualties abound. Destructive behaviours eventually suck the air out of people and organizations.

Every organization I’ve ever been a part of has opted for constructive behaviours. Few, if any, have truly put their preference into full practice.

Your Mission: Scale constructive behaviours, across the organization.

I’d like to help. I’ve been looking for an integrated organizational model for scaling constructive behaviours. Not satisfied with what I’ve found so far, I developed one. I call it LADDERS. I hope you find it helpful.


LADDERS is an acronym. It stands for: Lead, Assess, Design, Develop, Evaluate, Root, Share.

Meaningful acronyms are memory aids. (e.g., BIFF and CINERGY are two well-known conflict management acronyms that I rely on.) Memory aids are increasingly important to me. They are my buffers against content shock and a myriad of distractions. Alas, it’s also a scientific fact that my aging brain is less able to deal with distractions. I need all the help I can get.

LADDERS is how I conceive the embryo of constructive behaviours taking shape and growing into full bloom, within an organization.

1. Lead.

Culture starts at the top. Leaders must be committed to an organizational vision of open communication and constructive conflict, and the values upon which that vision is built. More is expected of leaders. I advocate for 50/50 leaders; leaders who spend 50% of their time managing for results, and 50% managing the quality of workplace relationships and interactions. Walk the talk. Otherwise, things fall apart.

2. Assess.

Assess the current state of behaviours. Where is the organization at now when it comes to behaviours? On the constructive-destructive behaviours continuum where are we? Backed by sponsor, leader, commitment, a situation assessment can provide a snapshot of current behaviours, challenges and opportunities, and alternative paths forward.

3. Design.

Design the constructive behaviours you want. For each of your organization’s core values, decide on and define three or four behaviours that you can measure. Behaviours bring values to life. You can measure people’s behaviours. You can’t measure people’s values.

4. Develop.

Develop the behaviours you want. Behaviours are learned. Few mortals are born as behavioural savants. With a hat tip to Roger Fisher, “The objective of learning is integrating thinking and doing; the sunlight of thought and the sea of activity”. Through continuous training, coaching, and applied feedback, constructive behaviours are nurtured.

5. Evaluate.

Evaluate people’s behaviours. There is wisdom in “you can’t control what you can’t measure”. Yes, apply that to people’s behaviours, too. Not surprisingly, technology is coming up with new ways to measure behaviour. Preferably, evaluation, performance feedback, is done on a continuous basis, based on healthy relationship, and not just the old-school way, hidden until year-end.

6. Root.

Root the constructive behaviours into your organization. Make them part of your cultural DNA, embedding them into employee hiring, assessment, and development processes. Organizations that breathe constructive behaviours gain a strategic advantage, via positive employee engagement and loyalty, workplace productivity, and customer service.

7. Share.

Share stories of constructive behaviour. There is a war of attention taking place. Negativity, too often, wins the attention battles. Don’t let it win the war. Stories connect. Stories connect the dots and discrete events into some sort of whole. Tell stories that connect constructive behaviours to positive outcomes. Share stories that break down the silos; stories that build bridges between vision and values; that speak to our better nature. To constructively share is to return, lead the way, back to the L in LADDERS. Full circle.

Build your LADDERS

In many ways, individual components of LADDERS can be worked on, independent of the others. LADDERS is not a machine. I conceive of LADDERS as a system.

Why not build LADDERS, your way – for your context and organization?

And, take your constructive behaviours to the max.

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