How can you strengthen the values of other people?


Posted by Carolyn Taylor - 02 November, 2009

How can you strengthen the values of other people?
Yesterday I flew American Airlines in an exit row.
The hostess stopped at our row, gave us a sweet smile and without drawing breath gave us her learnt speech about whether we were all aware of the responsibilities of sitting in this row. Without pausing to hear our answers, she moved on to repeat the exercise at the next exit row. She did not reappear. After she left, I realised I did not have my seat belt fastened, and my neighbour was listening to music on his headphones. This woman was not motivated by a deeply held value of safety, she was following a procedure. A person who cared about safety would have noticed my unfastened seatbelt and asked me to do it up.

It is impossible to build a great culture through procedures alone. People have to hold values deeply enough that they will act on them even when there is not a procedure. It how someone acts in those spontaneous moments that allows you to see how deeply held their values are. If you care enough about customers to select 'care for customers' as one of your values, you want your people to hold that value deeply enough that they will choose the most caring option at all times, even when there is no prepared procedure.

Do you have any friends who work for one of the big mining or oil companies? I do. They are obsessed with safety. I can be with them on the weekend about to set out for a drive, and they will point out something dangerous about the driving conditions. They have safety embedded as a deeply held value and they learned this at work.

I have seen people's values strengthen as a result of steady efforts by their organisation's leaders to achieve this. The work follows the lines I covered in recent posts: 

  • Find the employees who already hold the values very strongly
  • Put them in positions and in situations where others experience how they think and act
  • Recognize values led decisions whenever they occur, especially if they involved some short term sacrifice
  • Tell stories continuously about heroic values led actions you have seen
  • Ask for frequent feedback about your own behaviour

Strengthening an individual's values takes time - there is often a lifetime of carelessness or unconscious behaviour. To really get serious about values requires being conscious, awake and alert. That's why doing it together with others makes such a difference.

Showing my bias now, I do find that type of behaviour at British Airways and at Qantas, with whom I also fly. I believe they have done many years of training on safety, and have reached the stage where their employees live safety, beyond the script they are expected to follow.

That's the difference.


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Topics: Carolyn Taylor, Customer-Centric, Leadership, Values, People-First

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