What Happens When What We Say Doesn't Match What We Do


In 1998 Enron issued their Annual Report and included an outline of their corporate values.  They were well-written and sounded fantastic.  See for yourself:

RESPECT: We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance don't belong here.

INTEGRITY: We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, we won't do it.

COMMUNICATION: We have an obligation to communicate. Here, we take the time to talk with one another...and to listen. We believe that information is meant to move and that information moves people.

EXCELLENCE: We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do. We will continue to raise the bar for everyone. The great fun here will be for all of us to discover just how good we can really be.

Who wouldn't want to work for a company with a value system like this?

However, given the moral, financial, and legal implosion of Enron, we know these values were merely lip service to values. We know the organization was marked instead by Pride, Arrogance, Intolerance, Greed.

The smartest guys in the room aren't always the good guys.  (Watch the documentary here if you want the gory details)

Unfortunately, we are all capable of a similar duplicity.  However, most of us won't make headlines when we fail.  Instead, when there's a gap between what we say and how we live, people will ultimately dismiss us.

We can describe our personal value of respecting others, but we check out of conversations in order to check our phones.

We say we value integrity, but exaggerate or lie about areas of our lives.

We praise the worth of communication, but we avoid difficult conversations because we don't like conflict.

We love excellence, but in practice, we're just as likely to give half of our effort to our projects. 

While hanging signs around us with our beliefs don't hurt, and vigilance helps our resolve, the more effective approach is to have people in our lives hold us accountable.  Everyone needs someone around who is close enough to see our junk and brave enough to call us out when we're being hypocritical.

Do you have a friend in your life who has the knowledge and courage to play this role? Ask them to be your back stop and hold you in check.