Leaders Give Values Heat

Kathryn Scanland Values

Leaders must figure out what values they believe should be manifested in their organizations.  And then put them over the flame of a Bunsen burner by teaching on those values, underscoring them, enforcing them, and making heroes out of the people who are living them out.  ~Bill Hybels
Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

I’ve watched a lot of organizations debate, scrutinize, and pore over creating their values and wordsmith the definitions until each noun, verb and preposition was perfect.  And then there they sat.  Simply putting values in writing doesn’t make them meaningful or practiced. 
Have you ever flown on Southwest Airlines?  I realize I’m picking on one of the most values-driven organizations you can find, but you only have to fly once on Southwest and you get it.  I just checked their Web site and I’m certainly not surprised to learn that one of their values is to have a fun loving attitude.  Do flight attendants on any other airline ever tell jokes and laugh at themselves?  Not in my experience.  What about their value of having a servant’s heart?  When I get on a Southwest flight I feel like I’m being genuinely welcomed aboard the plane as opposed to being herded and tolerated.
As Hybels states “Whatever the value, if it’s alive and well in an organization, it’s not by accident.  It’s only there because of intentional, committed, dedicated effort.”
I recently heard a former CEO tell a story about the values at his publishing company.  An editor had approved a design for a book cover that the CEO thought was, well, let’s just say not as good as it could have been.  He went to the editor and in a slightly raised voice (in an open office environment) began to berate the editor and asked him what he was possibly thinking to approve a cover like that!  The conversation was overheard by a co-worker who then went to the CEO and said he didn’t think his behavior represented their value of respect.  The CEO agreed; how he chose to address the issue was not respectful.  The CEO returned to the editor and apologized for his behavior.
This happened because the CEO had turned up the heat on their values through extensive training, orientation and dedicated effort.  The heat had been turned up so high, that even the CEO couldn’t get away with not modeling their corporate values.  That’s the way it’s supposed to work – values so hot that they can’t be missed or swept under the rug even when the CEO slips up.
One way to check the heat level on your values is to honestly ask yourself, if someone were to come to our organization would they see an observable difference between us and another organization in our industry?  Would someone be able to identify at least some of our values without going to our Web site and looking up our list of values?
Hybels says “When you heat up a value, you help people change states.  Want to jolt people out of business as usual?  Heat up innovation.  What to untangle confusion?  Heat up clarity.  New ‘states’ elicit new attitudes, new aptitudes, and new actions.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s just plain chemistry.  Which is a lot about heat.”
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