Image from ABC News

Image from ABC News

It’s about concern

It is startling to learn someone developed such a clever scheme to get young adults into elite universities, and that they sought out and involved individuals at all levels of the application and admissions process. So much deception and so much paying for favors … It’s really disappointing to think that someone would perpetuate such an unfair scheme and get away with it. But he didn’t.

So why would these parents go to such lengths to insure their kid(s) gets into some of the most elite institutions, despite the moral and legal implications? If we had a chance to speak to any of the parents, they would tell us they did it for their kids. They did it out of concern for the future of their children. They might even be implying they went above and beyond the norm to insure their child had nothing but the best education. Attending an elite institution does impact one’s financial and social future (there is some research that supports that claim). Think about it, if we all had access to that much money and that many connections, would we use them to get our children into one of these elite institutions? Would you use your power out of a concern for your child’s future? The key word here is concern. At The Values Institute we define concern as demonstrating interest in the well-being of others. The parents could make the argument that’s just what they did. But was it really about the well-being of their child or the well-being of their own interests, their reputation? The opposite of concern is being focused on oneself, showing no commitment to understand others and their experience. Was there any time taken by the parents to understand the child’s experience? Were questions asked about their talents, their values, their desire and aptitude for higher education? The critical questions and demonstration of concern are: Where is the child in their life’s journey and what would most help them take the next step toward discovering who they are? Who could they become and what can they contribute to the world?

Concern lived out in a complete manner means not projecting our desires onto someone else, even our kids, but rather taking the time to understand them and their situation first before we start offering up advice or making decisions on their behalf. What kind of future does a child have if their parents make all their important decisions for them and bulldoze every obstacle out of their kid’s way? Deep concern is a normal part of parenting; cheating is not.

– Len Hightower - Managing Director, The Values Institute





What makes for a good employee? When you see hundreds of resumes and meet multiple candidates for a quick 50-minute interview, how do you know if they are the ONE? Hiring a new employee can be a critical decision that can be the difference between your organization flourishing or floundering. 

It is not unlike any other relationship. Whether it is a personal or professional relationship, the success or failure is based on values. Shared values, the ideals and principles held in common, are at the root of every meaningful relationship. They are the glue that bonds two people together. A successful marriage is a result of a having shared values. That doesn’t mean that a couple must be a carbon copy of one another, but the values that are most significant to them are almost always the ones held in common.

When you are hiring a new employee, you don’t have the luxury of dating and learning about each other over a long courtship. So, is there a way to tell if your prospective colleague has the qualities that will make for a meaningful relationship? There is. And it is all based on shared values.


First, you need to make sure your organization has a set of distinctive values. Many companies have a set of values, but they are often very vague and common or compliant values like Excellence, Quality, Honesty, Efficiency, etc.  While these may be important to your company’s operations, they don’t set you apart. Virtually all companies want to be Excellent and Honest.  Your values need to be distinctive. They need to differentiate you by expressing your vision and philosophies that delineate your reason to be – and ultimately characterize the culture or the organization.

The values-driving marketing agency Amusement Park states their values as Fearlessness, Diversity, Imagination, Belief, Joy and Character.  That certainly defines the culture in a way that sets them apart from the typical Madison Avenue agency that speaks about themselves as simply Creative, Collaborative and Integrated.

Once you have these truly differentiating values identified, you can then begin to look for candidates that possess similar and complementary values. Most of the time hiring managers are obsessed with hiring someone that has very specific job qualifications. And frankly, it is easy to look at a resume and find out if a candidate has the experience and category knowledge that will help them excel in the job. But having the right experience is generally not the best predictor of a candidate’s success.

Success comes faster when a new employee is a good fit with your culture and is immediately engaged, motivated and has a sense of belonging.  They will get that from feeling a sense of shared values. We know that historically, companies whose employees are engaged have 18% higher productivity, 16% greater profitability and their customers are 12% more satisfied.1 


Finding a candidate that shares your values starts with how you present yourself. If you express your values in your public outreach, you will attract people who identify with your values. Is it any wonder that most Patagonia employees care deeply about the preservation of the planet?  Yvon Chouinard’s mission and values are all about using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. This company clearly uses their values to serve as a catalyst for corporate and personal actions but also acts to attract people who are the right fit.  


Your interview process should refrain from strictly being about their experience, and instead focus on unearthing the candidate’s personal values. If you can suss their values out, you can better assess their suitability and likelihood of being successful.   Beyond that there are professional tools, like the renowned Harrison Assessments that can help you identify how well a candidate values align with those of your organization. 

When there is the right fit with a new employee, you get so many benefits. When they feel connected by values statistics show that you will have 25% less turnover, 37% less missed days, 49% fewer safety incidents and 60% reduction in quality defects and errors.1 When you find the right employee through a shared-values process, it is like finding your company’s soulmate.


1 Sources: Greenberg & Arawaka, Seligman, Joyworks, Gallup 2014, Forbes




The linked article is republished from LinkedIn.  It is a great expose on what has happened to our values as the heated debate and dividedness has arisen from this years' Presidential election.  But this article (which is an excerpt from The Social Organism: A Radical Understanding of Social Media to Transform Your Business and Life,” to be published Tuesday, Nov. 15 by Hachette Books.  But what makes this article so valuable, is that they share two examples of how organizations have managed to keep hate off their sites without flat out censorship (which has often resulted in even more hate).  

In the case of Riot Games,  a gaming giant with 67 million users of its flagship League of Legends game, used... gamification to incentivize players to identify positive and negative behavior.

This artificially intelligent system of incentives and education quickly gave rise to a powerful self-reinforcing feedback loop of good behavior. It proved to be a remarkably successful case of Pavlovian conditioning. Reports of verbal abuse at League of Legends immediately dropped by 40%, according to lead game designer Jeffrey Lin. Incidents of homophobia, sexism and racism are now found in just 2% of all games. More than 90% of punished players never commit another offense.

This is a great example of using gaming to actually change behavior for the better.  TVI uses an online tool called Culti-Vate to help organizations shift their culture by changing behavior through a gamified quarterly challenge that allows all employees to compete by practicing the organization's values on a daily basis.    Check this out on our site at





The following is a quote from an article by the Global CEO Vanella Jackson of Hall & Partners which is one of the largest and most reputable research firms on the planet.  She speaks to the increasingly more important need of marketers to share their brands values.  We think this music video from our sister company Amusement Park, Inc., is a great example of advancing the conversation and taking a stand on an issue.  Client JBL and artist Damian Lillard a.k.a. Dame D.O.L.L.A.   

Quote from Hall & Partners, Vanella Jackson

"It’s important for every brand to make a unique emotional connection with those they are targeting. Increasingly, this no longer needs to be limited to the emotional benefits of the product or service alone.

Today people expect more. They expect brands to stand for something beyond their own interests, to contribute and do good in the world. Whilst this is evidently true for Millennials, it also applies to others who feel that brands have become self-serving and can no longer be trusted.

It’s never been more important for a brand to show that it really understands its customers – to demonstrate what it values and why it believes it’s different from others ... Increasingly, there’s an opportunity for what we call ‘culture brands’: brands that take a stance, aiming to challenge and shape culture, rather than simply reflect it.

Whether it be confronting stereotyped attitudes towards women or championing workers’ rights, culture brands think big. They demand a different societal approach. Culture brands create a rallying call and use social power to drive cultural and social change. This is the new role for brands, a role that’s important and gaining momentum."


Values impact every decision we make

From CEB Marketing Leadership Council white paper from Promotion to Emotion. 

By Mark Weinfeld

This image below is a fairly well used analogy that comes from Jonathan Haidt of Havard. The rider represents rational thought, the elephant emotion. When it comes to decision making, especially purchase decisions, their sizes are in proportion to their relative importance. In other words, the elephant (emotional) outweighing the rider (rational) means that we make choices based on what we feel...  and then we rationalize that choice with factual evidence.  The factual evidence tends to get attributed to the decision -- only because it is far easier to explain and back up.

The is just another variation of TVI's long standing belief that ALL DECISIONS WE MAKE, BOTH PERSONAL AND IN BUSINESS, ARE INFLUENCED BY OUR VALUES.


by Mark Weinfeld, The Values Institute

Since 2012, three brands have dominated The Values Institute’s ranking of Orange County’s Most Trustworthy Brands, with each brand taking a turn at earning the highest overall cTrust score during that period. In-N-Out Burger has won the Restaurant Chain category every year since 2014 and was named the overall Most Trustworthy Brand in 2013 and 2014. The Automobile Club of Southern California (better known as AAA) led the Finance and Insurance category each year and was recognized as the overall Most Trustworthy Brand in 2012.

The Envelope, Please

Congratulations to OC’s Most Trustworthy Brand overall for 2016 … Trader Joe’s. The fiercely independent retailer with 457 stores was honored as the retail champion in 2013 and again this year, edging out Costco in the category, and now just squeezing past In-N-Out Burger as the overall trust champion of 2016.

The three brands share some things in common that seem to make the difference in each case. First off, all demonstrate a high level of quality in their products and services. All three also operate with a level of simplicity in their offerings, which contributes to a phenomenal track record of consistency. Companies must first excel at the basic needs of Competence and Consistency in order to reach the next level of trust.

Each of these brands is able to elevate trust through emotional factors that create a deeper relationship with customers. Candor and Concern are the dimensions that occupy this higher level of trust. These dimensions make the brand-customer relationship more personal and generally require some sort of one-to-one communication.

Employee Interaction Is key

One of the key findings that has emerged through years of TrustPulse™ surveys is that customers tend to place greater trust in a company when they have opportunities for positive personal interaction with the brand’s employees.

Look closely at these brands and you’ll notice how they break from category norms in the way employees interact with customers. 

Check Out the Produce

For example, Trader Joe’s trains its employees to comment on customers’ grocery selections at check-out. That brief interaction – whether to share a serving suggestion or just comment on how much they enjoy the product – gives customers a greater sense of openness and honesty. When employees show pride in the products they sell, they’re offering a tacit endorsement of the brand.

Trader Joe’s also has a reputation for compensating its employee-advocates quite well. Cashiers earn about $12-14 an hour, according to, while assistant managers can make $20-25 an hour. Store managers get paid upwards of $100,000 a year.

Quality You Can Taste

In the Quick Service Restaurant industry, In-N-Out Burger has long bucked the prevailing trend by paying its employees significantly more than the required minimum wage. Therefore, the chain has been able to attract the best of the best – and keep them. “All of our managers have worked their way up through the ranks of our associates,” said In-N-Out VP of Development, Carl Van Fleet, in a recent interview with public radio station KUT in Austin. “Every single one of them has done that. Our average store manager has worked for us for over 14 years.” Paying employees a higher wage actually helps In-N-Out save money over time by retaining high-quality workers who can make a longer-term commitment. “It leads more workers to be attached to the company,” says Van Fleet. “It avoids training. It avoids the cost of turnover.”  

In-N-Out also leads the way in how its employees communicate with customers. It was one of the first chains to employ “runners” who stand outside the drive-thru to take customer orders in person vs. waiting to talk through the intercom speaker. This innovation was added to accommodate the growing lines at the drive-thru and reduce the potential for mistakes. By increasing human interaction, In-N-Out eliminates the anonymity of the drive-thru and provides a more personalized experience that fosters trust.

Help Is on the Way                   

Can you name any other auto lender or insurance company that has a branded roadside assistance program with uniformed drivers that rescue stranded motorists, besides AAA? The company began as a membership motorist club known mostly for its tow-truck drivers coming to the aid of its members. 

But “Triple A” is much more than roadside assistance. It’s also a travel agency; an insurance company offering auto, home, and life insurance; and more recently, even banking services including a AAA MasterCard and automobile loans. Add in the company’s long history of in-house DMV services, a monthly travel magazine, and political policy advocacy on behalf of motorists. The broad range of helpful services demonstrates the Auto Club’s concern for the well-being of its members and creates a strong bond based on common values.


While it has outpaced the other finalists in all five Cs in its category, where the Auto Club has excelled most as a perennial trust leader over the last three studies is in the areas of Concern and Connection. In fact, the statement “Employees treat me with respect” was one of the top-two highest-rated (of the 20 statements rated) for the brand in each study.

Creating an Inside Connection    

For all 30 finalist brands surveyed this year, the lowest raw score shown in all of the 5 Cs was Connection. This factor, however, carries more weight in TVI’s cTrust calculation, because competitive superiority in Connection has been proven to provide the most direct correlation to better brand loyalty, and ultimately customer advocacy.

Customers of the Auto Club, In-N-Out, and Trader Joe’s all have a strong connection with these brands through a sense of association. Because they share common values, patrons feel like “this is a brand for me” and “we are members of the same tribe” and are proud to be associated with the brand and what it stands for. 

For instance, Trader Joe’s understands what it’s like for parents to shop with small children. Kids need an incentive to behave while mom or dad buys groceries, and Trader Joe’s provides it. When your kids find the monkey that’s hiding somewhere inside the store (in a different place every time), the store manager behind the desk is happy to reward them with a little treat (with the parent’s permission, of course).

Each of these three brands has done an outstanding job of making customers feel valued by giving them the sense of being an insider. When a brand’s best customers find out about a “secret menu,” or a hidden prize for kids, or even free perks that are not widely known by the general public, they feel like an activist for the brand. This exclusive connection – the feeling of being in-the-know – leads customers to tell others about their admiration for the brand.

It’s no coincidence that all three of these honored and trusted brands carry a list of “under the radar” truths that reflect their values. These small but Connection-building actions make customers feel a little more intimately involved with the brand. Here is a partial list of some of their no-so-secret secrets. 


Loyal to Brands, Not Points

Virtually all supermarkets have continued to build bigger stores, add more products, and institute weekly discounts on groceries by requiring customers to join a frequent shopper program – a strategy that has largely failed to win any loyalty. On the other hand, Trader Joe’s does not have a formal frequent shopper program of any sort and probably never will. Even their Fearless Flyer publication isn’t about short-term discounts on regularly stocked items. Instead, it focuses on telling stories about new products. Consequently, Trader Joe’s has created cult-like followings around exclusive products like Two-Buck Chuck, Cowboy Caviar, and Cookie Butter.

Consistency Counts

The fast-food world lives on the Limited Time Offering (LTO). Practically every month, burger chains roll out new variations of their base products at special prices in an effort to give customers a new reason to come back. The traditional way of building frequency is to always offer something new or on sale. But that doesn’t create real loyalty.

Meanwhile, In-N-Out Burger has not changed its menu since milk shakes were added in 1975. It has also never discounted an item. Nevertheless, the burger chain boasts higher loyalty scores than any other restaurant. The Auto Club membership card has always included the number of years you have been a member, printed right on it. But it’s not a discount or a reward – just a recognition that reinforces your decision to be a member of the club. Triple A continues to have unprecedented renewal rates from loyal customers. All of our Most Trustworthy Brands have earned true loyalty – to their brand, not to rewards programs.

Staying on Top Takes Leadership and Dedication

At TVI, we’re proud to continue conducting the annual Most Trustworthy Brands survey, so we want to conclude this year’s results with special recognition of the consistently outstanding performance of Trader Joe’s, In-N-Out Burger, and the Automobile Club of Southern California. It’s one thing to be a “one-year wonder,” but quite another to remain at the top of a category year after year. While these companies have continued to succeeded at winning the trust of their customers, they have never grown complacent or stopped striving to excel.

All of us intuitively know that meaningful, trusting relationships take work – day-to-day, month-to-month, year-over-year. So if you’re wondering what it takes to become a Most Trustworthy Brands champion, take a look these three brands and the level of dedication demonstrated by their respective leaders to live out their values on a daily basis. Congratulations to Robert Bouttier, CEO of Automobile Club of Southern California; Lynsi Snyder president of In-N-Out, and Dan Bane, chairman and CEO (and familiar radio spokesperson) of Trader Joe’s for demonstrating the commitment necessary to lead their organizations as perennial trust champions.

Purpose: and the new workforce.

I was sitting in my conference room a few weeks ago on the receiving end of a presentation being given by a group of incredibly energetic and talented interns who represent the millennial workforce.  Their goal was to influence the outreach efforts of the Values Institute.  During their presentation I had an overwhelming deja vu moment.  I was struck by the uncanny similarities between their values and my own as they relate to our collective sense of purpose for our work. 

It was at that moment that I realized the responsibility I had, as the leader of an organization, to not simply profess values but rather, to live them out.  You see, this new wave of workers, who will represent 50% of the workforce by 2020, thrive on purpose.  In fact, they align themselves with companies that demonstrate an authentic sense of purpose that transcends product or service offerings.

These new workers want to be part of something bigger and when given the option will support brands that do good, for their employees and the communities they serve.  I can honestly say that securing my own first job had far less to do with finding my purpose than it did with having spending cash for the weekend.

The numbers behind their behavior are staggering.  Recent studies indicate that 73% of millennials will try a new product if it supports a cause while another 26% will pay more for a brand that demonstrates a social conscience. If you want to attract millennials to your workforce or secure them as customers there are a few simple ground rules that apply.  I'm happy to report that these rules of engagement closely align with the guiding principles of our own work at the Values Institute.

First, they value transparency or candor--communicating in an honest, authentic manner.  If you have good news to share about a community involvement initiative or internal employee engagement program then take the opportunity to share it.  On the other hand, if you're facing challenges don't shy away from sharing that as well.  Patagonia is a brand that has seen enormous, positive response from candidly exposing the carbon footprint that followed raw materials from around the world to the finished products on the shelves. They not only openly shared this information, they created a website devoted to allow consumers to "count the cost" involved in their purchase decisions.

Second, millennials live their lives on multiple screens--computers, tablets and smartphones, so having a virtual presence is essential if your brand wants to engage with them in a meaningful way.  And by engage I mean creating a dialog not an information dump.  And remember, it's important to share the story of your brand.  Its journey.  What it values.  Product information is fine but this new workforce is more interested in understanding your desire to do good rather than your desire to make money.

Finally, it's critical to take time to build a relationship vs. grabbing a quick transaction.  Find a way to create an emotional connection.  What are the issues that both you and millennials can agree on? Increased value comes from a sharing of values.  Demonstrate that you're in this relationship for the long haul.  

If you take time to listen, you're likely to find, much like I did, that the pursuit of purpose transcends generations.   




Why your why matters

A recent international survey revealed that 92% of all brands in the US and Europe could disappear tomorrow and no one would care. A rather staggering statistic given that every day, millions of well-meaning people to to work and end up with little to show for their efforts. I believe that the primary reason so many brands are deemed "disposable" is because, aside from creating revenue, they have yet to discover their true purpose. Without knowing their "why" companies move from day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month and year-to-year lacking the ability to make a lasting, meaningful impact on their employees and their communities.

It's not surprising then to see dismal employee engagement numbers, lack of trust between employees and their CEOs, and sagging sales. I was once told that beyond the day we're born, the next most significant day in our lives is the day we discover why. Given the current pace of business it's difficult to take time to reflect on company purpose and yet, in the "life story" of the companies we give our all to, finding our "why" becomes the most significant discovery we'll ever make. Without purpose, we blend into the sea of sameness that characterizes much of the business landscape. We make little difference to those we employ and the community we seek to attract. We fail to leave a mark. We become part of the 92%.

Authenticity Rules

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Lynsi Snyder, President of In-N-Out, one of Southern California's most iconic and beloved brands, leading up to our sixth annual Most Trustworthy Brands event held at the Disneyland Hotel.  Lynsi was being honored as the 2016 Most Trustworthy Leader.

What immediately struck me about Lynsi was her incredible honesty.  She is obviously someone who is completely comfortable in her own skin.  No pretense.  No hesitation.  Just open conversation including her own admission of feeling unprepared to take over such an important role given little formal business education or training.  

But here is an individual, at total ease, naturally willing to simply lead with her heart.  She passionately shared how important it was to love those who made up the In-N-Out family--a family that includes employees, customers and the community she serves.  Lynsi was also not shy to express that her ability comes from her close relationship with Jesus.  From this relationship the concepts of giving being more important than receiving and loving your neighbor are in full display.  

Having met many company CEOs, Presidents and C-Suite executives who find it difficult to reveal any level of vulnerability, it was wonderfully refreshing to come across a leader who is truly authentic, humble and quick to give credit to her grandparents, founders of the company, her father, and employees for her success.  She sees her role simply acting as steward of the brand, continuing the legacy, continuing the love.  

It should be no surprise that In-N-Out consistently excels in building trust both internally and externally.  The financial results are impressive but more impressive are the relationships built on a daily basis, one employee and one customer at a time.  This is a brand that lives out its values, led by someone who desires to leave the world a better place than she found it.

Congratulations Lynsi.  You inspire us all to reach for higher ground.

To view our interview with Lynsi Synder click here

From Success To Significance

When a recent survey of consumers worldwide revealed that 70%  of  brands could disappear tomorrow and wouldn't be missed, it sent yet another distressing message that our overly commoditized world of products and services simply won't support more of the same.  At a minimum it begs the question, what is the point of opening the doors every day only to be counted as yet another "category placeholder."

In his book, Success to Significance, author Lloyd Reeb, points out that many people measure their success by wealth, recognition, power and status.  There's nothing wrong with those, but if that's all you're focused on you're missing out.  He urges us to focus on significance--using our time and talents to serve others.

Seems like the lessons we can learn in our personal search for significance are worthy of carrying over into our businesses as well.  In fact, I would argue that the brands  we respect most are the brands that seek to become significant. To leave a lasting footprint on the world they serve.  Success, measured only by last month's sales is both shallow and uninspired.  

Seek to do something significant with your company. Strive to improve the lives of your employees and your customers. Stand for something greater than what you manufacture. In his now famous response to shareholders pushing for more ROI, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple said, "the company does a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive. We want to leave the world better than we found it."

Is that your desire?  To use the resources of the organization you lead or work for to better the world? Or does satisfaction come primarily from the ledger sheet?

Speaking from personal experience, I can truly say that my own view of success has shifted dramatically over the years.  And while I've experienced some measure of financial success in my career, I'm most grateful and satisfied by the rich relationships I've accumulated.  Working along side those whose values I share. Dreaming big. Serving others.

Want to see your company make a lasting impact? Give the people you lead something bigger than what they do to accomplish together. Create one big, audacious goal and watch the very best come out of your company.  Don't settle for success.  Reach for significance.        

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

McDonalds new Chief Executive, Steve Easterbrook is already on the defensive as he battles to pull the chain out of a financial slump in dating back to 2014 which saw profits and revenues fall due to longer service times and competitors taking advantage of healthier consumer options. Thousands of protestors swarmed McDonald's headquarters in a two day rally to ask for pay hikes and better working conditions for the 650,000 McDonalds workers.

Chicago Teachers Union vice-president Jesse Sharkey called on McDonald’s to "stop pretending to support values for the public good while simultaneously undermining those policies with its political contributions." 

While Mr Easterbrook recently announced plans to raise pay for some 90,000 workers in company-run restaurants, Mr Sharkey said the company "simultaneously undermines efforts to raise the minimum wage across the country with large support through the National Restaurant Association (NRA)," a deep-pocketed industry group that lobbies against such increases as well as food policy changes.

"McDonald’s is exposing its share owners and business to significant reputational risks by continuing to say one thing and do another," Mr Sharkey said.

One of 5Cs studied by the Values Institute is candor--the truthful, transparent communications that says "we have nothing to hide,""our behavior matches our messaging." Without it, employees and customers begin to question motives, become suspicious and lose motivation.  In the case of McDonalds, public statements that don't match behavior for any reason erode trust internally and externally.  In an age where what you stand for corporately is as important if not more that what you sell, candor, during times of trial, separate those who can survive the storm and those who end up shipwrecked. Think about it the next time your organization faces it's next trial.