Values Can Carry One Through A Crisis
When I was working on my book, Values, Inc., I found so many examples of strength through adversity. One that always stands out to me is the teachable moment from the late CEO James Burke of Johnson & Johnson during what is commonly referred to today as the “Tylenol crisis.” When the deaths of several people were traced back to tampered bottles of extra-strength Tylenol that had been laced with cyanide, Mr. Burke made the important and costly decision to pull the entire supply from store shelves. It was the only responsible thing to do.
Convincing his board of directors that this $100 million loss was the only road to take was a test of courage and the ultimate act to put humanity above all else. The organization then made the significant investment to innovate its bottling process as well. Thanks to the tamperproof seal they invented, a new industry standard is shared by companies far and wide for the protection of the public at-large.
The value of human life over immediate profits was the right decision and Tylenol came back even stronger.
That’s a lesson worth revisiting as we live through the current COVID-19 pandemic. While so many businesses are struggling, the question for all of us becomes: How much do we value humanity? What acts of courage today will help us to live to see a better tomorrow?
While I am sure nobody wanted to trade places with the tough decisions that Mr. Burke had to make, we can be thankful that he made the choices that he did. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for it in 2000 and was named one of history’s 10 greatest CEOs by Fortune magazine in 2003.
My hope is to see many more leaders survive today’s troubling times, navigate the best decisions in uncharted waters, come out stronger as a result, and carry businesses forward with a renewed strength unlike any other.
For a look at how company values create the kind of culture that supports these tough journeys, I invite you to read about Mr. Burke and many others in my book Values, Inc. To order a copy or gift one to someone else, you can visit HERE.