Leadership Lessons from Tigergate
The world is buzzing about Tiger Woods’ fall from grace. It’s difficult to sort fact from fiction in all the tabloid fodder, but a statement on his website says he has "let my family down" and not been "true to my values." While I generally don’t think of athletes and sports figures as leaders – to be a leader you must have a vision and directly inspire others to work toward that vision – Tiger’s situation can be instructive for business leaders. What has been exposed is a disconnect between Tiger Woods the brand and Tiger Woods the person. His legacy has been tainted because he did not choose to act in accordance with the values he professed.
Clarity of values is essential in knowing our direction in life. It then takes courage to make the right decisions in moments that matter, moments when our core values are challenged. It is the difference between making a life and just making a living. Leaders, like sports figures and politicians, can justify or rationalize their “transgressions,” but values are reflected in what we do, not in what we say. Actions do speak louder than words. It is only when behavior aligns with values that true happiness and lasting success is possible.
The “it’s not what you say that counts, it’s what you do” principle directly relates to your practice. After all, the vision, mission and core values you adopt are the foundation, the roadmap for everything you do. However, the true test is whether you follow your values. Do your employees know the ways in which they contribute to the vision, mission and bottom line? What does it feel like to be a patient in your practice? The answers to these questions will expose your values, or the lack of them.
Core values define the culture and the unspoken rules of your office. Values drive decisions, conflict resolution policies, reward and recognition systems, compensation plans, and overall team process and dynamics. Core values reflect what is truly important to you within your practice. These are not values that change from time to time, situation to situation, or person to person, but rather they are the underpinning of how you run your office and your life.
Core values also are the compass for how you form patient service policies, your hiring decisions and the way employees treat one another on a daily basis. Core values impact the integrity of your practice. They create the ground rules that allow you to measure business and employee performance. Dental offices that are anchored in values use them as core business principles. The following are just a few ways you can lead a value-based practice.
Once you discover and define core values, speak them and live them. Weave them into your office environment so that every employee has a reference point for business practices and individual behavior.
Conduct a “core values review” with your staff. Ask employees to identify specific behaviors that support the core values of the practice. This is especially important if you have high employee turnover and poor morale. If the vision, mission and values are represented one way and played out another, how they are experienced carries weight. For example, if ‘trust’ is a practice value, then following through on what a person says they are going to do is a measurable behavior throughout the office, from employee to employee and from practice to patients.
Hire employees who are aligned with your values and build a vital support base. When you interview job applicants use experience-based questions. If ‘trust’ is one of your core values, you might ask, “How did you demonstrate trust with your coworkers in previous work experiences?” The bottom line is that employees whose values are in conflict with yours either pose a problem for the practice, or the practice poses a problem for them.
Identify behaviors that support your core values. This will allow you to recognize employees when they model those. Valuable rewards come in the form of praise, letters, special privileges and other non-monetary forms. Likewise, new employees who understand the ground rules in your practice know what is expected and tend to do better than those left to figure it out on their own… akin to negotiating cultural landmines.
Regardless of your affiliation, this is a spiritual time of year. At first glance, pairing spirituality and leadership might seem incongruous or perhaps even dissonant. However, spirituality is about finding meaning. I respect what Tiger Woods has accomplished in golf and I am saddened by his current predicament. But it should serve as a learning moment for all of us. If nothing else, this scandal of the day gives us yet another opportunity to examine our own values and those of our society. During this holiday season, may you reflect on the things that are truly meaningful and important.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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