Today’s post is the featured article from the April 2009 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.

john-newIt was a moment of raw honesty. A confession of sorts … yet delivered with the hope of a fresh new beginning. I had just finished speaking on my new book GOOD to the CORE. It was a great group and, as always, I enjoyed meeting so many of the participants who took the time to visit afterwards. He was one of the last to come up to the front. In fact, I was already packing-up my materials. But he quickly had my attention!

Tim introduced himself and then precisely dived into what he wanted to share with me. “I really enjoyed your presentation … you know, about core values. It makes a lot of sense to me … especially the part about most people not truly knowing the core values of their own company.” That’s when he switched into confession mode. “Do you know that the seven core values of our company are actually written on the back of our name badge? I wear that name badge everyday and I couldn’t tell you those seven values.” He didn’t seem remorseful about it. He couldn’t change the past. He seemed inspired to make the future different. In fact, he didn’t even need to say what he was going to do on Monday morning when he ever-so-routinely clipped on his badge. I knew he was going to carefully read the list of organizational values on the back of the badge.

In not knowing the seven values listed on the back of his nametag, I knew Tim was simply having a bad case of normal. And I knew come Monday morning things would be anything but normal. Tim was in the process of taking the first step in helping his organization become more valuable. He had realized the potential of building values with values. Tim was in learning mode, but I knew he would soon be in a leading mode. He would move from learning to embracing … and from embracing to holding himself accountable. Then, ultimately, Tim would develop the courage to hold others accountable.

He had the weekend to think about it and he knew he needed the time. I could tell, because I could sense he had been truly listening throughout the morning. Tim knew those seven values would simply remain words on a name badge if he didn’t first do some personal homework. He knew it wasn’t only the seven corporate values on the back of his name badge that were a mystery to him … he knew the values within his own core had become vaguely familiar at best. Tim knew he first needed to rediscover the values on the back of his heart before he would be able to live and bring meaning to the values on the back of his badge. It was the link between the two that would ultimately determine the potential of his professional contributions, not only to his company, (and I know this sounds far-fetched) but to the world.

There is no question that living a meaningful set of core values takes a commitment. Things that cost you demand commitment … otherwise they are easily abandoned when there is a price to pay. If I am certain about anything, it is that values will cost you in the short term. But not having them will ultimately kill you in the long term.

I deeply feared, in the early months of 2002, we had not learned anything from the profound events of those recent months. September 11th. Enron, Worldcom or the related implosion of Arthur Andersen. Genuine transformation just didn’t seem to be on the horizon. Regulations maybe … and just a desire to get back to normal!

Seven years later … I wonder. I wonder if we think we can strategize our way out of current conditions. We certainly seem to think we can buy our way out. Yet …

Bailouts don’t prevent future fallouts. Values do.

We may very well need funding and formulas to help, but they will only ignite the next economic disaster if we aren’t willing to rebuild our core … day-in and day-out. I deeply believe we are called to be good to the core … and ultimately it is there, and only there, that we will find the real recovery we long for!