Why Don’t More Companies Live Up to Their Values?

Conversation and acceptance of the importance of company culture, values and purpose is becoming more common place today. More companies are investing in company culture in more ways than ever before.

Although is it really all that new?

Vision, mission, values have been common terms in organizational life for a good amount of time now. Many a wall are adorned with pictures of majestic landscapes and eagles flying across the center with word "Leadership" emblazoned at the bottom with a lovely definition of the word below that.

So, there must be great leadership at that company, right?

Probably not.

At least not according to nearly three quarters of people not fired up to go to work every day who point to leadership in some form or fashion as a primary driver in their engagement or lack thereof.

One infamous company had the value of integrity all over the walls exactly the same way described above. However, that company went down in flames and is the iconic name, brand, image and reference used to illustrate corporate greed, selfishness and a lack of leadership. You've probably already guessed, Enron.

Kevin Cashman, a Korn Ferry executive, said in a recent article that most companies do not lack purpose or values, they lack the courage, clarity, and commitment to actually live them.


And he’s not wrong. The truth hurts.

But not as badly as living inconsistently with our purpose, values and mission.

What can we do?

Own It

I've been reading Vince Molinaro's book, Leadership Contract, recently and I love how he points out that leadership is first a decision. Every leader must know, understand, appreciate and commit to responsibly steward the people, resources and company in their charge.

Could you image if every leader did just that?

If you are a leader or want to be in a position of management or authority, please do not do it lightly. Other people's lives are and will be in the future dramatically effected by you. Embrace that responsibility with care and love and commit to doing good.

Isn't it so surprising how leaders in organizations don't have to sign a contract to lead well or take an oath like other professions, however they can have just as much if not more impact on people's lives than even a doctor can. Jeffrey Pfeffer points that out in his book, Dying for a Paycheck. Our direct boss has more influence over our own health than does our primary care physician.


That’s a lot of responsibility!

Live It

Part of that commitment and responsibility is to live and breathe the values, vision, mission and purpose of the organization. That's exactly what Nick Sarillo, owner of Nick's Pizza in Illinois did and he points to that very thing as the linchpin of their success. Nick’s is one of the highest revenue pizza restaurants in the country with one of the smallest turnover rates in the entire industry right around 25% compared to an industry average of well of 100%.

Nick reflects in his book how he started to make even daily decisions and seemingly simple decisions like where to take his car for an oil change based on his company's values. He felt as the leader of the organization he needed to completely embody the values and expect everyone else he interacted with to do the same.

What would our organizations look and feel like if we followed Nick's lead and truly tried to internalize and act out our company's values in everything we did?

They would come to life. Not only through us leaders but also everyone else around us. That's how cultural and organizational transformation happens.

So leaders, let's have the courage to live out our organization's values, mission and purpose and truly bring it to life for everyone around us.

The Profit vs. Purpose Debate… in Real Time, Kevin Cashman, Korn Ferry

Leadership Contract by Vince Molinaro

Dying for a Paycheck by Jeffrey Pfeffer

A Slice of the Pie by Nick Sarillo

Devin Craig



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