Which organization does not have a well-crafted Mission and Vision statement? Which CEO or leadership team does not espouse core values? Which leader cannot get up in front of an audience with an hour’s notice and speak to what leadership means and how to treat others? I frankly do not know of too many that cannot do this. If I changed these questions to “which organization/leader PRACTICES” their values, the list is regrettably quite short. Recently, as a season ticket-holder for Charlotte’s NBA team, the Hornets, I had a regrettable negative incident with my 12 year old son during a game from one of the employees. I wrote Fred Whitfield, President of the Hornets, and shared my concerns. He conducted an internal investigation that validated my version. Neither my son nor I wanted to return to watch any more games. Fred wrote me, called me, and personally apologized. I was humbled by the friendly call and sincerity of the conversation. My son, however, still did not want to return as he took the incident personally and was fearful of it recurring. What ensued was a Values-Based approach to resolving an emotionally charged experience. Fred invited Hunter and I to his office before a game so he could speak directly to my son and share similar childhood experiences. He brought in his senior staff to say hello to my son, and then told us an amazing story that could be life-changing for my son. He shared his own personal childhood of negative incidents, how his Dad told him that if he walked away from something he loved to do because someone else treated him poorly, then in effect, that person won. The best response would actually be to follow that passion more and become successful. Success, he shared, was the best response. After the wonderful talk, Fred allowed my son and I to sit court-side and his staff showered us with much love and respect.
We were simple season ticket holders. We were not sponsors or owners of a suite; losing us would not have been a big deal for the hornets, and Fred (Marlene) and his staff. But their core values were violated and it was more important to them to replace our negative experience with a positive one, and do it with grace, dignity and love. They did this and then some. This is core values being practiced and lived, not just spoken about or posted on a wall. My son and I will not only return for the rest of the season, but also renew for next year. One negative experience should not keep us from doing what we love – a father-son date-night watching our hometown team. We did not think we could love the hornets more, but we do now. And this love came with a life lesson.
This week, take a minute to read your organization’s mission, vision, and core values. Ask yourself what you, as a leader, did last week to live and demonstrate those values. Can you recall a decision you made that was based on those values? If not, make a concerted effort to do so this week. You never know who will notice, it might be your child or a story that is relayed to someone else in your organization about who you really are as a person. It might result in someone learning a life lesson.