One often hears how difficult it is for leaders to ensure that an organization’s values are lived by everyone at every level.
Let me tell you a story about an organization that succeeds in doing so.
It happens to all of us—I lost my wallet— credit cards, drivers license, health and social security cards and cash. After mentally retracing my steps, the last time I recall seeing my wallet was at Starbucks. Two days later, I discovered that my wallet was safely resting in the store’s safe. As the manager handed it over, everything intact, I was mighty relieved. I proffered some high denomination bills in gratitude, but was rebuffed. “Absolutely not. This is what we do. We do it all the time!” he said with great charm.
This is the essence of Higher Ground Leadership®. It really doesn’t matter how much you spend on fancy advertising campaigns, “branding”, public relations, or even the technology and the infrastructure of the business— if you can’t live the values at every level in the organization, none of that will count. Leadership that inspires people across the organization, causing them to inspire the people with whom they interact and serve every day, is the most powerful brand booster in the quiver of a leader. Many leaders deride values and culture as “the soft stuff”, and these are the “programs” that are often the first to be slashed at the altar of cost control and “profit improvement” initiatives by such leaders. But Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with 21,000 stores in 62 countries, and they got there by making sure their culture and values are deeply embedded—and lived—throughout the company—even in difficult times—and they have experienced those too.
We couldn’t get the manager, or his team, to accept a small reward for their integrity, but in the end we were successful in giving them one of our “Inspire Change” coins (you can find these coins here), and they were thrilled. It was a small token of gratitude for something that he shrugged off as something “we do all the time” but was extraordinarily important for me.