The Challenge of Living Up to Core Values
As mentioned in previous posts, SGR staff took the time this week to review our core values. SGR’s core values are unique and the team truly strives to use the core values to guide every interaction and decision for the company. The values are:
- Customer Service
- Continuous Improvement
- The Golden Rule
- Protecting Relationships
Core values can be seen as something that is nice to have; however, when difficulties arise, your core values can guide your organization.
This week, a University of Oklahoma fraternity created a video where students were heard chanting racial slurs that refer to the African American community and vowing to never admit them to Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The video demonstrates repulsive behavior and thought.
When researching this topic, I found the following core values for the University of Oklahoma:
Fairly quickly after the controversy broke, University of Oklahoma’s President David Boren issued the following statement:
To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves “Sooners.” Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members.
Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between this University and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house by midnight tomorrow. Those needing to make special arrangements for possessions shall contact the Dean of Students.
All of us will redouble our efforts to create the strongest sense of family and community. We vow that we will be an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue. There must be zero tolerance for racism everywhere in our nation.
Impressively direct, President Boren outlined his disgrace for the situation, a remedy, and a long-term solution for correcting the problem in the community. The detailed description for OU’s Integrity core value is: We do the right things for the right reasons. President Boren did that this week.
The University of Oklahoma quickly responded to the crisis that the viral video created. Hopefully, they will also follow-through with the long-term goal of instilling these values throughout their community so that the behaviors exhibited in the video do not occur in the first place.
When you find yourself leading in a time that your core values are challenged – let the values be your guide. (Tweet This) Do the right things for the right reasons.
Executive Search Manager
Living and Working Authentically
This week, I’ve really been pondering the idea of authenticity. To be honest, this is a topic I often ponder. My generation has definitely had its struggles with authenticity. I come from a generation that was continually praised—I call us the “special snowflake generation”—but authenticity was rarely encouraged as a goal in life for many of us, though my generation desperately yearns for it. Is it even attainable in this day and age, with the pressures we feel pulling us continually in the direction of inauthenticity?
In existentialist philosophy, authenticity is the extent to which we are true to our personalities, character, and values, despite external pressures. When we act in inauthentic ways, when we disown our values, these actions are said to be made in bad faith and we engage in self-deception to rationalize them (please look into the work of Jean-Paul Sartre for more on bad faith). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says this about authenticity:
Authenticity thus indicates a certain kind of integrity—not that of a pre-given whole, an identity waiting to be discovered, but that of a project to which I can either commit myself (and thus “become” what it entails) or else simply occupy for a time, inauthentically drifting in and out of various affairs.
Simply defined, inauthenticity is being fake, disingenuous, or what my generation often calls “a poseur.” As I’ve grown older and witnessed the ends of relationships, professional and personal, inauthenticity has taken on an even deeper significance for me because I’ve seen the damage it can do. It is often detrimental to relationships because it demonstrates a lack of self-awareness and hinders trust-building efforts. You can’t trust someone if they lack sincerity and you can’t trust yourself if you aren’t being true to your own values.
Authenticity and integrity are inextricably linked. Nowhere is the struggle for integrity more real for most of us than in our jobs. This can lead to moral dilemmas and dissatisfaction because we feel that we must choose between integrity/authenticity and financial security. It can be difficult to know how to act in a situation like this. Do we opt for financial survival or do we risk our security to do what we feel is the morally right thing to do?
This week at SGR, we’ve spent some time together discussing what authenticity means for us as an organization and how it helps us build and maintain relationships, not just with our customers, but with each other, as a team. Integrity is one of SGR’s core values, an asset that should not be sacrificed for any reason whatsoever, even if the very survival of the business is at risk. But what does this mean, in real life, when put into practice?
It means that you don’t always take the easiest path. It means that you sometimes make decisions (sometimes difficult ones) that go against the crowd. It means that you consider the greater good in all that you do. It means that you know there is a difference between disowning your values to follow the crowd and growing real relationships that change you for the better.
Emerging Generations in Local Government – 19
We’re continuing our series in the Cookingham Connection with a perspective from an emerging leader in local government. You heard what Interim City Manager Ed Wyatt had to say about Cookingham’s 19th guidepost. Now hear it from the perspective of Vanessa Shrauner. Vanessa is the Development Coordinator for Odessa, Texas. She earned her MPA from Texas State University.
Always remember that you will never get in trouble or be embarrassed by doing what is right. You may lose your job for standing up for what you think is right, but you’ll always get another and better job. Besides, you will be able to sleep soundly…
I would like to start by saying we never know what might “get us in trouble” or cause us embarrassment when it comes to working in municipal governments. Therefore, I would like to take a little liberty and rephrase Mr. Cookingham’s statement while hopefully keeping the intent. If you get in trouble or are embarrassed by doing what is right, it will quickly be relieved by a clear conscience. So, while you may lose your job, you will have maintained your integrity and values and typically employers respect that; therefore, you will get another job and it may be better. Good things happen to good people.
Doing what is right is typically aligned with staying true to one’s own core values. Core values are determined in a variety of ways in peoples’ lives, so values differ from person to person; therefore, doing what is “right” can differ from person to person. The best-case scenario in municipal government is that a manager’s core values are in line with decision/policy makers. This scenario makes maintaining a moral path easier in that basically everyone is on the same page. In doing what is right, the manager has the support of the decision makers.
Should the manager’s core values not be in line with the board or council, then staying true to one’s beliefs of right and wrong becomes more difficult. Here’s where the “you may lose your job” part comes in. Each individual must decide for themselves their limits on their integrity. If a council asks you to do something that you believe is not right, you have options. Most of us are members of organizations that protect us in ethical matters. However, there may still be instances where a request goes against one’s values and that leads to the firing or the voluntary resignation of a manager. In other times, the option may be to say/do nothing, depending on the circumstance. If saying or doing nothing does not violate your personal values and can still meet the needs of policy makers, it may be the most viable solution.
Another aspect I think is worth mentioning is being flexible, not with your personal values, but with your view of the values of others. I believe that trying to look at circumstances from the other side may warrant us adjusting or revisiting the limits of our values from time to time. Being that right and wrong can vary from person to person, there is another perspective for us to observe circumstances from. Things are not always as black and white as they may seem in the beginning and a little re-evaluation and introspection may give us the ability to compromise and reach a solution which works for all parties. I find this an integral part of the job I do on a daily basis. Now, not every decision is an ethical challenge, but the practice of seeing both sides of a situation allows me to exercise that skill when the stakes are higher.
Applying this in my career means knowing my values, knowing my manager’s values, and knowing where I can be flexible. I fully anticipate a conflict of values at some point in my career so, should I face the instance of losing my job for doing what I believe is right, I hope I can do so with my values and integrity intact. And I always hope I stay true to my core values because, as Mr. Wyatt said, I have to be able to live with myself.
The Cookingham Connection blog series is published in partnership with Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). ELGL members are local government leaders with a passion for connecting, communicating, and educating.