Shared values contribute to safe landing – the case of Southwest Airlines

Screenshot from CBS feature

There is no point in sitting in the Board room and choosing values in a vacuum; no matter how well you think you know your business, unless…

The view from the C suite is different from the view from other vantage points. It can be a reality distortion field. I’ve seen it for myself. No matter how well you think you know the business, it is good to be open to other perspectives. Indeed, good governance calls for it.

So, the first point I would make is:

Your (core) values, even though aspirational, must be achievable by the human beings who make up your organisation, unless of course you plan to change the people and keep values that they are not interested in or are not capable of achieving. In most instances that would not be the first choice.

It is important to know what values are important to your employees, and to find that out you have to ask them.

One of the main purposes of core values is to both inspire and motivate people to be the best they can be, so that the organisation can achieve its highest potential.

Let’s take a peek at how core values can inspire and motivate. The crew of the SouthWest Airlines Flight 1380, in an interview on CBS News, attributed their success in safely landing the plane to their shared values. This may be a dramatic example, but every day, every where, employees make decisions inspired by their values. In companies that take their values seriously you will hear people ask, when considering what to do, “Is this in accordance with our values?” – I have heard it many times myself.

In addition, people all over the organisation possess wisdom that, if shared and acted upon, would improve results. They know what needs to change to fix any dysfunction that currently is holding you back. Unless your values encourage an open, “just” culture, they may not be sharing.

So, before you identify your core values, here is a practical guide. Asking these questions can provide you with strategic insights to help you start your journey:

  • Personal: What personal values are important to your employees ?
  • Current: What values & behaviours do they experience in your organisational culture today?
  • Desired: What values & behaviours do they believe would make the organisation reach its highest potential?

These are the questions posed by a Barrett Values Centre Cultural Values Assessment, called a CVA for short.

A CVA allows you to collect the insights of all of your employees and use the data as the basis for an organisation-wide conversation. This powerful tool creates engagement with the process of identifying the best candidates for your organisation’s core values. Then, armed with the results of such an assessment and the consultation that follows, you could go back to that Board room, and make a wise choice of the right core values to support your organisation, and the people in it, to reach their highest potential.

In other words, Areté.