Leadership Limerick: Values into Action

Every Monday, I offer a leadership limerick, highlighting an idea or strategy about effective leadership in limerick form. Searching for leadership limerick will identify previous posts.

Identifying the values at your core
Can often seems like quite a chore

But it’s not the words that most matter
Without action, they are just chatter

Driving behavior is what they are for

It's not unusual to see eyes roll when talk turns to mission or core values during a strategy retreat or staff workshop.  Unfortunately, in many organizations, conversation around core values is primarily associated with painful wordsmithing.

In the seminal work Built to Last, co-authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras assert that 80-90% of a leader's time should be focused on ensuring alignment between core ideology (mission or purpose and values) and the envisioned future.  If what you stand for and why you exist isn't understood and embodied in the thinking and actions of every individual throughout your organization, much of the activity that occurs each day will lack the appropriate level of intention, meaning, and impact.

To ensure the integrity of the experience they offer their customers and stakeholders, smart organizations craft brief narratives that expand on the values selected.  They should be prescriptive enough to bring a value to life, yet open to enough interpretation so that individuals can own them authentically.

Here's a sample core values statement from my last consulting practice (like minded people) where I was a co-founder, the alignment mechanisms for one of the values, and some tips on crafting your own core values statement.  And check out the June 2011 issue of Inc. magazine for some great examples of how small businesses put their core values into action.  Finally, here is an earlier post about core values.


kevin said...


i'm starting my second and third visioning and values facilitation next week for two new start-ups that have found their way to me. your limerick couldn't be more well timed! for me, an individual and corporate retrenching in core values is our only saving grace for this country and the world...and we need to move quickly!

ironically, while cleaning my attic the past month, i also ran across a document you drafted and shared at UIFI in 1991 on values! it also helped me in framing my thoughts and curriculum for the upcoming work session. let me know if you'd like a copy (if you don't already have one), and i'm more than happy to scan and share.

hope all is well. let's definitely get together in june if you're still scheduled to be in atlanta!


Jeffrey Cufaude said...

1991. Who knows what drivel I might have been spouting then, so yes, I'd love to see a copy when you have time.

Glad this post is timely for you. Friday I'm speaking at a corporate retreat on pride of ownership, so thinking about what is at the core of an organization's identity is top of mind right now.

kevin said...

i've also taken inspiration lately from a company called "we first". you need to check them out if you don't know them already!

their founder, simon, would tell you that an organization's identity is no longer just owned by the organization itself. it's now shared with and shaped by its constituents, and especially its customers. this company's doing great purposeful work! i believe simon was in ad age today in the CMO strategy section. he tweeted earlier.

good luck!