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What can your organization be counted on to deliver, day in and day out?  Can those you lead be assured that what you say you value is what gets rewarded?

Leading from your company's values and your personal ethics can be a challenge, but it is vital to your success!  Articulated, shared values can drive an organization to phenomenal heights.  Lack of articulated, shared values can leave a company in chaos and ruin.

I had the opportunity recently to meet Colleen Barrett, the President of Southwest Airlines.  She was speaking to a group of Denver business leaders about Southwest's secret to success:  "Family, love and Golden Rule Behavior".  She says "We are in the customer service business, we just happen to provide airline transportation!" 

As the airline has grown to 34,000 employees and 98 million passengers per year, that message and those values have been consistent.  Southwest's mission is: Dedication to the highest quality of customer service, delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and Company Spirit.

Barrett says their customer service begins with the internal customers, their employees, and by taking care of their employees, they, in turn, take care of the external customers leading to repeat business and finally to increased shareholder returns. 

That dedication to employees was demonstrated very early in the company's history.  Southwest began with 5 airplanes.  During a financial crisis, the management did not want to lay off employees, so they sold one of the planes instead.  At the same time the employees created a strategy to turn the planes around at the gates in a fraction of the normal time.  As a result the company maintained the same flight schedule with one less plane!

Southwest is also adamant about hiring only employees who share the company values.  Says Barrett, "We hire people to live the Southwest way.  They must possess a Warrior spirit, lead with a servant's heart and have a fun loving attitude."  As a result, Southwest holds the record of fewer customer complaints than any other major US airline since the DOT began keeping records in 1987!

Southwest is a wonderful example of leading from heart and from a shared, articulated set of values and recruiting and retaining employees who share them.

So, I challenge you to give some thought to your own leadership.  Are you clear about what you value?  Are you consistent in your decisions, your relationships, your communications?  Do the people you lead share those values?  Can your customers count on you to deliver what you promise, consistently?

Suggested Action Steps:

1.  Read over your current company or personal mission, vision and values statements and ask, where are we walking our talk and where are the gaps between what we "say" and what we "do".

2.  Outline logical next steps in correcting the course and getting back on track.  One recommendation is to hold a company meeting and review those statements and ask your employees, "How are we doing with these?"

3.  If you have not already done so, ask employees how their personal values align with the company's values and look for ways to achieve congruence.  Note: Often when you have an employee who is unhappy or seems at odds with what you are trying to accomplish, there is a disconnect of values.


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