Core values are the foundation of any organization’s Invisible Architecture. Your core values should define who you are, what you stand for, and what you won’t stand for. They should establish cultural and behavioral expectations and foster a sense of pride and ownership across the organization.
Southwest Airlines offers a great example of how this works. Their core values are: Servant’s Heart, Warrior Spirit, Fun-Loving Attitude.
In their book Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success Kevin and Jackie Freiberg tell the story of a Southwest Airlines reservation desk clerk who took a confused elderly passenger who’d showed up at the airport a day early home with her, fed him and gave him a place to sleep, and made sure that he got on the right plane the next day. If you are at all familiar with Southwest Airlines you have no doubt heard other stories like that.
The Freibergs also tell the story of how in 1994 Southwest responded to the launch by (at the time much larger) United Airlines of their United Shuttle. This was an arrow aimed directly at the heart of Southwest. Then-CEO Herb Kelleher sent a letter to all Southwest employees entitled “Commencement of Hostilities” that quoted Churchill and called upon the “martial vigor” of his people for the impending campaign. The book includes a photograph of a woman working in a Southwest reservation center in full combat regalia.
Southwest Airlines has been the only consistently profitable airline in America for the past four decades. And Southwest has more parties and celebrations than every other airline put together. There is a causal relationship at work there!
Southwest flight attendants are famous for the sense of humor with which they give the pre-flight safety instructions. This YouTube video has been watched more than 22 million times, giving Southwest tens of millions of dollars worth of free advertising.
As you prepare to head into the weekend, here are several questions for you to consider.
Do you know the core values of the organization where you work – and I mean know them by heart? Do those core values help to define what you expect of yourself and of others (and what they expect of you)?
How about the core values of that very special organization you call your family? Do you know them by heart and do they help to define what you expect of yourselves and of each other?
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