Building sales overnight and brands over time

September 2 That’s a pretty catchy mission statement, no? It belonged to an integrated marketing firm for whom I once worked. It’s also one of the reasons I’m not a big fan of mission or value statements. The firm in question, you see, rarely, if ever, delivered on either promise. They didn’t walk the walk.

I bring all this up because I’m reading a new book by the same title. ‘Walk the walk: The #1 Rule for Real Leaders’ by Alan Deutschman is chock full of examples showing how great leaders such as Ray Kroc of McDonald’s really did walk the walk when it came to delivering on mission and value statements. Kroc, for example, insisted from day one that cleanliness be one of his company’s core values (quality and service were the others). To walk the walk, Kroc would clean up any debris he found when visiting restaurants (one employee even remembers seeing him scraping up gum with a putty knife). Employees bought into Kroc’s value system because he lived it himself.

Southwest and Amazon are two examples of organizations that walk the walk, says Deutschman. Unlike its competitors, Southwest didn’t furlough employees when times were tough and Amazon continually posted all customer reviews, even the most negative ones. The former demonstrated Southwest’s commitment to its people; the latter showed Jeff Bezos’s commitment to Amazon’s customers.

All of which brings me back to my former employer’s mission statement. Because management was so indifferent and inattentive to walking the walk, we worker bees actually made fun of the line and would often mutter it after being fired by a client or losing out on a big new business pitch.

The beauty of walking the walk is its simplicity. Organization mission and value statements are nothing but words if the leaders aren’t delivering on the promise in visible and tangible ways. As it turned out, my former employer neither built sales overnight nor brands over time. It did, however, go belly up about five years ago.

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