A Pop-Quiz for Those Leading in 2007


I quizzed my son Jack about his organization – a Montessori school.  Then about a week later I quizzed an audience of about 200 people.  I asked each about their core values.  I said to Jack, who is in fifth grade in a combined fourth-fifth-sixth grade at a Montessori school, “Is there something, some idea that Sharon talks about all the time?”  Without hesitating for a second, he said, about his teacher:  “Yes, totally:  freedom and responsibility is what she’s always talking about.” 

A week later, I asked an audience of managers at a large not-for-profit, “Has your organization articulated its shared values?”  Numerous folks said yes, and many others nodded.  “And, what are your core values?” I asked.   At that moment, no one could say.  Not one person.  Not one value.  Resisting an urge to be preachy, I simply said, “That’s something you might want to take a look at.” 

These stories provide a powerful lesson.  Take the Jack quiz first.  Can you imagine the joy and phenomenal relief I felt – as an educated-in-morality-laden-60s-Catholic-schools dad – when I heard my son quickly tell me:  “freedom and responsibility”?  Is there a parent in America who wouldn’t exult if they found their school had so effectively brought home a core message, a message by the way that Jack supported with numerous examples.  As the kids say, “Man, that was tight!” 

On the other hand, the not-for-profit stands to do some great work now.   By (re?) starting a conversation about what values they want to guide their work with board, staff, each other, and especially their clients, they can align and inspire their workforce.  

Here’s why this matters.  You are not the only one influencing what your kids, employees, church members, etc., value?   Oprah, Dr. Phil, Rush, Springsteen, Al Gore, Colin Powell, Kid Rock, Eminem, Bono, JK Rowling, Barry Bonds, Rain (he’s a South Korean pop singer who tops TIME’s online poll of influential people) are walking and talking values.   With these people competing for the minds and hearts of your people, do you see how vital it is to be clear about the values you hope your people share? 

May I quiz you?  If I came into your house or your shop today and asked, “What does your manager/dad/CEO stand for?  What are the values s/he wants you to hold dear?” Would your people be able to answer?  Would you like what they’d have to say?

Stay on message if you hope to

Lead with your best self!