I think many organizations have the elements of a core ideology … you know, things like values, beliefs, purpose, mission, vision, principles. You know, stuff that’s timeless, not management or leadership fads or flavors-of-the-month. Example organizations come to mind: Disney, Starbucks, Apple, Southwest Airlines, SC Johnson, etc. Those organizations stand on their beliefs. Southwest Airlines’ “core” is low-cost. So when advisors and consultants recommended adding food or charging for luggage, Herb said “no” to all initiatives that would increase customer’s fares. What those actions demonstrated to Southwest Airlines employees is that Herb was true to his ideology … his true North, to coin a phrase close to home.
What’s your MAP to true North?
There was an online story this week about a Northeast family-owned grocery chain, Market Basket. In short, two cousins who wrestled for control finally came to a resolution when Cousin “S” got Cousin “T”, the CEO, fired by the board. Well, it turns out the employees (and hence customers) loved Cousin “T” and they quit and boycotted – even picketed – along with customers until shelves were empty and the business ground to a halt. The employee commitment, of course, required them to forfeit their pay during the protest. What made the employees feel this way? Cousin “T”, whose real name is Arthur T. Demoulas, has a True North. Oh yeah, he was reinstated as CEO by the Board.
His values included respect for employees and that they deserved favor over shareholders for profit distributions. He cared personally about his employees knowing their names, calling them during times of tragedy and gave back to their communities. From the story, employees expressed their feelings in a public letter:
“We love our company. Together we have built one of the greatest business models in the country. A rare place where everybody wins: the associates get great benefits an excellent wages along with the promise that with hard work you will be promoted; the customers get the best customer service, the best values in the best selection and the best prices; the communities we serve see the creation of hundreds a job; the shareholders possess an asset which has been unstoppable in its growth”
A True North MAP is really a navigational metaphor for a company’s bearing in the direction of their ideals. Lisa Earle McLeod addresses this subject relative to Gallup’s research that reveals 70% of people in the workforce today are not engaged. Her rationale: “I like to suggest that the reason so many people ‘just don’t care anymore’ is because their leaders haven’t given them anything meaningful to care about.
This is not an employee problem; it’s a leadership problem
Every organization – be it a company or family – has an ethos, if not by decision, then by default. The ethos is the spirit of the organization. It is the collective beliefs about who the organization is and what they value. It’s that intangible thing that’s hard to name yet everyone knows what it is.”
Whatever you call it … core ideology, ethos, True North … the leaders are not just declaring, but rather are living out their beliefs, values and principles. The leaders in my book, Peerless are neither charismatic nor legends but they lead their organizations through peaks and valleys by honoring, equally, humanity and strategy.
It must be counterintuitive, but when you trust and respect people first they will reciprocate with elevated innovation and inspired customer care. The resulting new top line revenue, without additional expense, goes right to the bottom line.
Head North, guided by your core!