I was deep into clearing my editor’s comments on the manuscript of my upcoming book, ROI: Return on Integrity. Jay, my editor, is really good! You might say he is very thorough … pushing me on depth and clarity. In so many ways, he’s asking me to do precisely what I’m asking my readers to do … think and then think some more!

I was in the midst of hours upon hours, pouring over pages and pages of the complete manuscript, when I could feel myself starting to think … whew; I’m so tired of thinking about all this values stuff. It was a good experience for developing my own empathy for what might be the main dilemma every reader and leader will face: Building a return on integrity takes a whole lot of thinking about core values!

It’s an issue when you write a book about just one thing.

And it’s a practical dilemma when you’re a leader trying to build a return on integrity. The first section of the book is actually called Dilemma. It’s an attempt to shine the light on the positive and negative forces that put pressure on core values. This initial section positions a leader to walk into their commitment, of building value with core values, with their eyes wide-open. Yet, little will prepare any motivated leader for this main dilemma they will face. It’s called values fatigue.

I’m not talking about a fatigue from living their core values. That will be energizing. I’m talking about leading it. In a world besieged by constant change, followers addicted to branded one-liners, buzz-filled “flavor of the month” initiatives, and short attention spans, it’s hard to continue to think about the one thing. For me, it reprises the old management philosophy from the last century … the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing!

No one every said that keeping the main thing as the main thing would not create leader fatigue. It simply said it was the main thing for a leader to do. We like variety … and we can get all the variety we want whether we need it or not. I recently heard a statistic indicating that more information has been produced in the last 2 years than in the history of mankind. And, I would add, we’re in slow motion compared to where we’re headed.

Wisdom is steadier than data.

Data comes and data goes. Ideas come and ideas go. Issues come and issues go. Pet peeves come and pet peeves go. Yet, in a world of variety, sturdy and steady have their way of creating the fatigue of sameness. A friend, recently and unknowingly, shared with me how he has categorized me as a “one thing.” He told me, regardless of the topic at hand, “whenever you call me, whenever you email me, or whenever you even cross my mind, I automatically start thinking about my core values.” I’m not sure if my friend was sharing a compliment or confessing an imposed curse!

I think this values fatigue can actually catch a leader by surprise. Leading a return on integrity, through a culture that builds value with values, has a great deal of complexity and variety within it. It’s like one prism constantly turning while reflecting a rapidly changing world around it. What you can experience is endless, yet what you focus on is always the same one thing. Core values.

I’m fascinated as I learn about the precise focus of the product line of some companies. Their entire composite of knowledge, resources, talent and energy is invested in one product … sometimes what is just one part of what will eventually become one element of someone else’s product. It’s their one thing. Our day-to-day world functions because so many are laser focused on their one thing. It seems a bit different when it comes to leadership.

It’s easier to move-on than to stay-on the one thing.

I know first hand. I have no doubt a battle of fatigue awaits for any leader who embraces a commitment to build a return on integrity. Followers, who fall into leadership positions, won’t have to worry about this fatigue. They will just move-on to their next buzz-branded initiative. Leaders, in leadership positions, however, will have to likely face this dilemma of values fatigue.

I wouldn’t be surprised, assuming you are still tracking with me here on the Front Porch, if you are wondering and waiting for the “values fatigue” magical solution. For once, there actually is one.

It’s the one thing.

All a leader (or an author) has to do is look to their core values. Therein lies everything you need to take the next step, make the next decision, clear the editor’s next question … and clear the fog of an episode of values fatigue. Just look to your core values. It really is amazing how the main thing deals with the main dilemma. It’s an important data point to understand before you ever begin the journey!