Today’s post is the featured article from the April 2012 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 is often said that talk is cheap. That can be true … but I will also suggest it is critically important. In corporations and organizations across America, what we talk about and what we think about have a lot to do with what we act on.
When it comes to core values, talk is an important element of sustainability. Leaders can’t just slip away to the mountain top and come back from some on-high retreat and post the core values and assume all will follow. They must talk about them and think about them again and again.
Core values don’t speak for themselves.
They demand our attention … and need our voice. Imagine a financial budget that is issued at the beginning of the fiscal year and never mentioned again. That just isn’t going to happen in most organizations. Imagine a leader setting an array of metrics and measurements for her department and never mentioning them again. That’s not going to happen either.
We establish and come back to what is important. When budgets, metrics and other measurements are established, we come back to them over and over. Leaders expect people to continue to think about them, talk about them and take action because of them. It’s called accountability. Leaders should expect it. It’s called responsibility.
Leaders continue to think and talk about them.
Bill Hybels, Lead Pastor for Willowcreek Community Church in South Barrington IL, often uses the analogy of a bucket with a hole in it. I first heard him use it in connection with organizational vision. He said the vision of an organization is like a bucket with a hole in it. When you fill a bucket with a hole in it with water, the bucket eventually becomes empty again. He says the same is true with vision. You have to continue to fill the bucket with water over and over again.
The same is true with your bucket of core values. You have to continue to fill the core value bucket over and over and over again. Once organizational core values are established, you have to continue to think about them and talk about them.
This kind of talk is not cheap. It is necessary.
Look at the agendas of your important meetings over the last several months. What percent of the meeting was devoted to financial results or achieving key metrics? What percentage was related to hiring, firing or layoffs? What percent percentage was related to social events?
What percent was specifically related to core values?
I am not suggesting that just because we talk about them insures organizational core values will come alive and everyone will live them. But I am suggesting, no matter how core values are “rolled-out” and displayed, if leaders don’t think about them and talk about them on a regular basis, then they are not likely to be lived.
I was recently in a meeting of top leaders. A lot was talked about. Core values wasn’t one of them. And my sense was that this was normally the case. Talk is cheap when leaders don’t believe in or live what they talk about. But I do believe there are leaders that do believe in core values, but just assume they live on their own accord. Which makes me wonder if they really do believe in them at all.
We think about and talk about what is really important to us. Just watch and listen to any sports fanatic … you will see what I mean. Just watch any business executive who is trying to achieve a year-end forecast and you will no longer doubt.
I have no doubt that talk about core values is certainly not cheap. It is eventually quite valuable!