Today’s post is the featured article from the June 2011 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.
It seems like only yesterday that Mac Anderson, founder of Successories and Simple Truths, and I were having lunch discussing his desire to create a book about building value with core values. Mac wanted to address this critical leadership issue in their line of Simple Truths books and thought I would be a good match to be the author of the book.
The concept certainly aligned with the nature of all of my other work and it seemed easy enough. After all, the concept of core values seemed like such a simple idea. Shortly after our lunch, I got back with Mac and told him I appreciated him thinking of me and I would be excited to take him up on his offer.
It has proven to be quite a growing experience.
Both the experience of writing the book and the journey since its release, has provided me the opportunity to understand how complex the simple idea of core values can prove to be. And why organizations, and individuals alike, struggle to genuinely connect to their core.
As I go before an audience to do a keynote presentation on core values, my biggest fear is that they will tune-out from the beginning … thinking to themselves “yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all about this core value stuff.” And they would be correct in thinking so … because intellectually they probably do. I mean, how complex could it be? I have now learned quite the opposite seems to happen. Most participants seem to, rather quickly, experience a wake-up call realizing that maybe they don’t know their core values as well as they thought they did. In experiencing a bad case of normal, they typically realize they might have a gut feel or an intuition, but draw a blank when it comes to the specifics.
The value of values is in the specifics … not in your gut.
Having a gut feel might have worked 30 years ago, but today a gut feel is an incredibly risky formula. The key difference 30-years later is the speed at which we move. And beyond the speed is our obsession with the short- term … often with indifference to the long-term.
There is no question that having a commitment to core values will cost you … especially in the short term. It just so happens not having them will destroy you in the long term. It’s just a matter of time. Simply a timing issue you might say.
It is what made writing this simple book so hard. Especially hard since Mac Anderson and Simple Truths, as the publisher, are all about powerful messages in as few words as possible. Just as they should be … because I think what we often do is create complex theories, models and methodologies so we can simply go and ponder it rather that do something about it.
What is difficult about core values is not the theory. It is the commitment!
Genuine commitments ignore the short-term cost because of an obsession for the long term. Not the other way around.
Many organizations have made the effort to define organizational core values. Some believe in them. A few actually measure and reward based upon them. But very few have ever challenged their employees to investigate their own personal core values … and then to purposefully understand the connection to the organization’s core values. It is then and only then that any organization has a chance that their people will genuinely begin to understand, own and hold first themselves and then others accountable to the organization’s values.
It is here that employee engagement is born in a way that breeds genuine service. It is the ultimate call of a leader and the dawning of their greatest potential. It is the inherent responsibility of every single one of us.
This week, Simple Truths released an inspirational movie for the GOOD to the CORE book. In the spirit of Simple Truths it is a short movie … just three minutes. But, hopefully, it will keep you thinking much longer than a full-length motion picture.
It all seems so simple. Yet I warn you this is not easy. Rarely is anything of great value very easy. Maybe this is why, in organizations, it is so rarely done. Maybe it is just easier to continue to consider core values as one of those nice touchy-feely soft issues.
In the end, I suppose, not valuing values is a value. A tragic one for sure.