Speaker tells Ed.D. students to live their values to become transformational leaders
No matter where you are in your career or education, Mike Weisman wants you to trade in the five Ps (power, position, prestige, pleasure and prosperity) for the five Cs (competence, consistency, concern, candor and connection).
Weisman, founder and CEO of Values Institute, brought his message to the current first- and second-year classes in Brandman University’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in organizational leadership program during their January immersion at the Irvine Marriott.
As the former owner of DGWB advertising and marketing agency in Orange County, California, Weisman knows more than most people about the lure of power, prestige and prosperity. The financial crisis and more specifically Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme revealed in 2008, confirmed what he had begun to dislike most about corporate America: a tendency to espouse one set of values and live another.
“We’ve lost a lot: money, patience, trust. We called it a financial bankruptcy, but I call it a moral and values bankruptcy,” said Weisman, whose questioning of how he was living his own values led to the Values Institute.
The pride he had once had in successful advertising campaigns began to wane. His solution, as Brandman faculty member Len Hightower said in his introduction, was to “try to literally try to change the world, one company at a time.”
“We all have decisions to make every day,” said Weisman. “Every choice is influenced by what we value. Values give us purpose.”
He urged the doctoral students to think about their “why” as they begin to choose topics for a dissertation. Values, he said, are the compass, but, as with following a real compass course, anyone off by as little as 5 percent will end up thousands of miles off course.
Weisman had the students work through an exercise designed to help them discover what they value most. Then he worked the room to get students to talk about how they had already lived out choices including balance, integrity and compassion.
“How do you feel about someone with those values as a co-worker or as a leader?” he asked. “Keep that list. You’re going to be working on it for a year. The challenge is to show up with those values every day.”
Sprinkling his talk with quotes from everyone from Elvis Presley to Martin Luther King and referring often to favorite television shows and movies, Weisman turned his five Cs into a “pyramid of trust.”
The bottom layers of competence and consistency, he said, are where most relationships end in corporate America. Most businesses are mainly concerned with their workers and leaders delivering on they skills (competence) and on what they say (consistency). The next layer of candor and concern are just as important and embody honesty and transparency. The top layer – connection – is where most organizations fail over and over. They cannot answer the question, “Do you identify with me?”
“You’re at work a lot. Don’t you want to be with people whose values you share?” he asked. “Is there one person you work with who would benefit from you putting their interests first?”
Companies such as Zappos, Tom’s Shoes, Patagonia, CVS and Panera were among those highlighted for treating customers and employees as being in a relationship rather than as commodities, even in the face of financial risk.
Culver City doctoral student Kathy Crowe said she found the examples particularly inspiring. Rita Grogan said so much of what she heard could be applied to her work in higher education.
As a group already interested in becoming transformational leaders, the Ed.D. students are well ahead of most people but it’s a lesson that needs to be learned over and over, said Weisman. “Whether we know it or not, we influence somebody every day.”
“A sports psychologist once told me that top athletes are the 1 percent who show the other 99 percent what’s possible. Which population do you want to be in? I would ask you to be in that 1 percent grounded in your values.”
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