The Value of Having Core Values

The airline passenger was upset with the flight crew. So she wrote a letter to the CEO to inform him she did not approve of how the crew was making jokes while doing the pre-flight safety checks.

In her letter to the CEO, she made clear that security announcements ought to be taken serious because of how important they were.


Airline Customer Service Values Core Values Business CultureAs it turns out, the passenger that wrote the letter was a frequent flyer of the airline. Surely a customer the airline wants to keep. Right? So how did the CEO respond?

“We’ll miss you” and added, “Rest assured that this company, like all good airlines, take safety very, very seriously.”

Most CEOs would have probably sent an apology letter saying things like it was not their intention to offend her; he’d look into to the matter; they value her opinion and appreciate her business. But not Southwest airline’s CEO.

What Can We Learn From The CEO’s Response?

There are many lessons in the Southwest story we can glean and apply to our practices. However, among the most valuable lesson for me, is the importance of having a set of defined core values.

Why Are Core Values Important?

Core values are used to establish a company’s guiding principles. They serve the distinct purpose of determining behavior and action.

Without core values, employees do not know what is right from wrong. Therefore, they have no choice but to make decisions based on their values. Which, of course, may or may not align with the company’s values.

However, when a business establishes them, they assist in determining the right path. Moreover, they give employees a reference in fulfilling business goals.

Southwest Airline’s Core Value

Embedded into Southwest’s company culture, is a set of core values. Here is how they define it for their employees:

We believe in Living the Southwest Way, which is to have a Warrior Spirit, a Servant’s Heart, and a Fun-LUVing Attitude.

No Apologies

For Southwest, working hard and playing harder is one of the company’s guiding principle. Fun is part of what the airline is all about. That is why the CEO did not apologize on behalf of the employees. The employees were embracing one of the company’s unwavering value.

Core Value For Salud Pediatrics

One of our practice’s cornerstone principles is profitability. This may seem obvious or inherent knowledge considering our practice is a small business.

But for us, profit is a core value because our financial gains are the driving force behind our ability to fulfill our mission to advocate and care for children in our community.

In other words, profitability is essential to our ability to provide health care services. Without it, we would not be able to stay open. Thus profitability is a responsibility to the community we serve, not merely a requirement for our business.

Prepared To Lose A Patient

Recently, a parent from our practice questioned our policy that requires patients to leave a credit card on file with our practice.

After explaining the reason for the policy and addressing her concerns about identity theft, the mom was still apprehensive.

I told her that her concerns were legitimate and that I understood where she was coming from, but that the policy was non-negotiable. I explained to mom that we felt so strong about the importance of the credit card policy, that we were willing to lose her family as patients.

Policies & Procedures vs. Core Values

We all have rules in place. Even Southwest, with their FUN-Luving attitude, has them. Going through the pre-flight safety announcements is one of many, I’m sure.

Having systems in place ensure efficiency and safety, among other things. But It is impossible to come up with a scheme for every single potential situation. There will always be situations that fall outside of the “policy.”

Core values, however, can be used in situations that fall outside the parameters of policies and procedures.

Does your practice have a core value statement?

If so, what does it say? Are you prepared to lose patients over it?


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10 Question You Must Ask If You Want Your Project To Succeed

clarity.001When you observe large organizations, the kind that have MBAs, experienced managers and directors, a savvy CEO and a lot of resources, you would assume they succeed at every single project they do. They have the brain power, the money and the experience. Why would they not succeed?

But the reality is, projects fail all the time. They take longer than expected, are often over budget, conflicts emerge, sometimes people get fired, others quit and the project is doomed.

Why is that? Why do projects fail? Why do they fail despite the talent, experience and resources, etc?

Not long ago somebody explained it to me like this. The reason projects fail is because the people that are working on the project don’t know what it is they are doing. There isn’t a unity, a clear goal, a finish line that all involved are working together to reach. The fundamental issue is this:

In both large and small organizations projects fail, not because of lack of skills, resources, talent or experience, but rather because of lack of clarity.

If lack of clarity is the core reason projects fail, how do we make sure we have the clarity? The answer is somewhat underwhelming. It consist of asking the right questions. Questions that get to the essence of the project.

Here are a few you and your team can ask to get you started on the right path.

What is the project?

It is important to write down the project because writing it down actually means something. If you have it in your head, you don’t really have a project. You just have an idea. Furthermore, writing down what it is that you are trying to accomplish will be a solid reference for yourself as well as your team members.

When is it due?

This one seems obvious. But in my experience, we don’t set dates nearly enough. Putting a date down will provide a sense of urgency. It will also keep people focus while keeping procrastination at bay. The more specific you can be with the due date, the better.

Who is responsible for this project to succeed?

You may be tempted to add all the team members involved, but ultimately, it is better if there is somebody that is THE responsible person. Think about it in terms of a professional sports team. The coach is ultimately responsible for the team to win even though it is the players that are tasked with the execution.

Who is your customer?

List the names of people that you are trying to please. It could be your boss, your patients, your patient’s parents, voters, the board of directors or anybody else. It is important to list them because there is a good chance that you might lose sight of why you are doing this project. And when you do, it is helpful to know who you are doing this project for.

Who are the authorities, influencers and gatekeepers?

These are the people that actually matter to the project. These are the only people you need to pay attention to. Define who they are. Everybody else, you can ignore.

Who is essential to the success of your project?

In every project, there are key people that must embrace the project for it to succeed. This group of individual are not the same as the authorities, influencers and gatekeepers. These can be committees, specialized groups, financial backers, that without their involvement you are dead in the water.

What does perfect look like?

Often times, we start out a project without really thinking about what the end results is supposed to look like. Consequently, we lose direction. For this question, it is important to be as specific as possible. Much of the clarity comes from answering this questions appropriately. Take your time with this one. It is an important questions and should not be taken lightly.

What does failure look like?

Failure is an important aspect of a project one must consider. For starters, failure is almost a sure thing. Thus, understanding what it looks like helps one steer away from it.

How would you plus it?

Here is the stuff you put down when one says, “you know what would be cool?” List 5 or 10 things that would make your project that much better. But make sure addition to the projects become distractions that can delay the timeline or take away from the final product.

How would you minus it?

Just like adding little things to make your project a little better, there are other things that you ought to consider that don’t add anything to the project. These are the things that if you take away from your project, you will actually improve it. Steve Jobs asked a version of this question frequently. I don’t remember the quote exactly, but I remember somewhere reading Jobs saying something like, you know when you are done, not when you can’t add anything else but when you can’t take anything else away.

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list. Notice, for example, budgeting isn’t addressed. It’s absence doesn’t mean it isn’t important. However the purpose of these questions is to help you and the team begin defining the project in a way that is clear and concise for the benefit of all.

What would you add to this list of questions?


Editorial Note: These questions were inspired and others borrowed from Seth Godin’s book Ship It.