Today’s post is the featured article from the October 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.

john-newThey were up on the roof and under the boardwalk always creating this magic moment. The songs of The Drifters bring back a rush of memories. If only I could sing … it sure would have been fun to be a Drifter. Well, at least that kind of drifter!

But we are far more likely to become a different kind of “drifter.” One of the great joys of writing GOOD to the CORE has been the opportunity to speak with many organizations who have become dead serious about building value with values. Consistently, presentation after presentation, participants will inevitably come-up to me afterwards to discuss one specific quote from my book:

“We don’t go running away from our values, we go drifting away. And one day we wake-up in a place we never meant to be … drifting in a direction we would have never chosen.”

They generally will say … “it’s really about the drift, isn’t it?” It is the one thing that seems to resonate with so many people when they begin to focus on core values … both personal and organizational values. We are all vulnerable to the drift whether we have intentionally chosen our core values or whether we have let our behaviors unintentionally choose them for us.

Last week I had the opportunity to present the opening keynote for the University of Alabama’s Annual Human Resource Management Conference. After my presentation, a participant approached me and had her own version of focusing on the drift. I found what she said to be both simple and profound:

If you don’t know your core values, how would you know you ever left?

That is precisely the value of intentionally knowing your core values. Knowing your core values doesn’t guarantee you from drifting. In fact, you can pretty much be sure you will drift with daily demands, demanding relationships and the reality you are human. But when you drift, intentionally knowing your core values will let you know you have left … your core.

This is true for personal and organizational core values. And for business professionals, knowing one without the other is not enough. Personal and organizational values work systemically to let you know when you have left.

You might think of your core values as the “drift busters.”

But even that is not enough. Sometimes you need others to tell you that you have “left.” Typically, we want friends who “get our drift” … but what we really need are friends who “catch our drift” and bring us back! I touched on this in the “DRIFT episode of JOHN-TV. I think The Drifters knew all about this in their singing Stand By Me!

I think of these friends as your “life guards” but could just as easily be considered “drift guards.” These are people who love you enough to tell you the truth and you love them enough to accept the truth when they tell you what you don’t want to hear.

Having core values and drift guards may be the best defense you have against the inevitable tide that is destined to send you drifting.

It really is about the drift, isn’t it?

The path to bad choices and behaviors is typically not a short one. It is an incremental, likely non-detectable, road. It serves us well to know the very moment we “leave.” That is the magic moment!