In a recent Boston Globe article, Northeastern University’s athletics director Peter Roby reflected on the notion of the NCAA’s “values” given Louisville’s hiring of Bobby Petrino as its football coach. Petrino was fired by Arkansas because of a scandal involving a motorcycle accident and an improper relationship with a female employee.

Here’s an excerpt of Roby’s comments:

“If we’re going to have a conversation about values, then we should understand how those things are lived on a daily basis and what it looks like when you’ve got a set of values that underpin what your activities are… I just didn’t feel like the hiring of someone like Bobby Petrino was consistent with what we say our values are. I wanted people to understand that if we’re going to put values on paper, we better be prepared to defend them and to be held accountable for them.”

My take: Roby is absolutely right, and his comments are applicable to any organization. True values aren’t the things you write down or proclaim in a speech in front of customers, employees, and shareholders, they’re the principles that shape how you make decisions. What you do and don’t do are the only accurate measures of true values. That’s why one of our Six Laws of Customer Experience is “You Can’t Fake it.

Without a clear set of true values, companies lack a “due North” that empowers everyone in the organization to make decisions because they understand what’s important. One of our principles of People-Centric Experience Design is Align with Purpose, an approach that would fail unless organizations have true values.

It’s okay to change your values or aspire to a new set of values, but it’s very hard to live up to them. You need to be very conscious of every decision you make and constantly look in the mirror and ask yourself, is that decision consistent with what I believe my values to be?

The bottom line: True values are defined by actions, not words

1 comment on “NCAA Provides A Lesson (Not) in Values”

  1. Like you, I completely agree with Roby’s take. What is often shocking and distressing is that the NCAA, like corporations, preach (advertise) values — then make decisions that ignore the values. Perhaps decisions need to be put through a rigorous value-test.

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