I like to stay focused on the positive up-lift potential that is held at the intersection of an intentional set of personal and organizational core values. Yet, this week I was reminded of how often we might begin to understand a deep concept when we see the reverse. Unfortunately, United Airlines has given us this example … all the way to the top.

And it is heart-breaking to witness.

It’s easy to throw stones and cast judgment.  It is always more useful to look in the mirror. I find myself in the seat of an airplane over a 100 times a year. And with a major airline as a client, I’m fully aware and deeply grateful for the amazing work employees of every airline pull-off … every single day. We take for granted what is close to a daily miracle in a life-and-death business each time one of those machines takes flight.

Which is what makes the disaster at United Airlines even more heartbreaking this week. The challenge United faces goes well beyond documented procedures or trained behaviors. Every aspect of this domino tragedy could have been avoided … precisely at the engaged intersection of personal and organizational core values. Even from a distance, it is easy to see that this is woefully missing in the United culture. I would also suggest they are no different than most any other organization.

Yet, for the moment, United is forced to stand in the spotlight.

It would also be easy to use this week, at United, to point to the bottom-line impact of core values. Yet, I won’t. Because you can’t embrace values for reason of the bottom line … they can’t be bought. Only lived. But let’s be clear, sometimes they can save you millions upon millions of dollars.

In fact, large organizations routinely invest millions of dollars on branding and marketing.  It might be time to rework the budget and reinvest a large portion of those dollars into the hearts and souls … the core … of every leader and employee. The Return On Integrity will leave plenty at the bottom line for funding branding and marketing … rather than throwing away money for damage control.

With that said, don’t stay focused on United for too long. I hope to embrace the valuable lessons they have provided and take them to my own mirror.

What lesson has United provided you for your own reflection?