Building Trust and a Values-based Culture

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students of the UNT System:

I don’t know about you, but whenever I have a fever or muscle ache I reach for Tylenol. We learn to trust the companies who provide us with the food and medicine we use. One such company is Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Tylenol. In 1943, J&J adopted their Credo, which clearly outlined their values, how they would exist as a company, and how they would treat customers and team members. In 1982, J&J was severely impacted by the Tylenol cyanide crisis, in which a drug tampering incident killed seven people. A critical decision regarding whether to recall 31 million bottles of Tylenol had to be made, which could possibly have put J&J out of business. There was great disagreement among J&J leaders about what to do. Ultimately, CEO Jim Burke held fast to the Credo. Amid the crisis, he challenged his board and his team: “Here’s the Credo. If we’re not going to live by it, let’s tear it off the wall.”

Values only matter if they matter to each of us. Afterward, J&J repaired the public trust in Tylenol, proving there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. This is what a values-driven organization does not only in times of crisis, but also in making daily decisions.

“Values-based culture” and “values-driven” may mean different things to different people, for me they are the same. First, a values-based culture is the foundation on which our vision (where we are going), mission (what we do), and purpose (why we exist) are built. It is a set of values with a set of behaviors we agree to live by. In fact, as our new vision states clearly, we will be values-driven:

By 2026, the UNT System is one team, values-driven and customer-focused with an emphasis on excellence, curiosity, and innovation.

But what does “values-driven” actually mean? I describe it this way:

  • It's a people-first culture where we live by a common set of values and behaviors
  • We make our decisions about everything we do based on our values
  • It's a culture filled with high levels of trust, a one team mindset
  • We believe more in serving others than receiving for ourselves
  • We no longer have silos keeping us apart, we openly share information
  • No more "we vs. them" mentality
  • We celebrate each other's successes
  • We care for each other
  • We unleash the power of our combined collaboration
  • We innovate and never lose our curiosity, we think BIG
  • We treat each other and our customers not by the Golden Rule, but by the Platinum Rule (we treat others the way they want to be treated)

During the coming months, we will be listening to your thoughts, dreams, and ideas about how to make our UNT System into a values-driven organization. Together, we will co-create the future UNT System – One System, one team working together for the highest success of our students, their families, our communities and all our UNT family.

Very respectfully,
Dr. Michael R. Williams