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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

Powerful Meaningless Words

Robert Stevenson Blog - Are they just words

Most companies have them in some shape or form: Guiding Principles, Mission Statements, Vision Statements, Company Values, Company Affirmations, Statement of Purpose, Company Goals, Company Philosophy. I saw where one company had broken their mission statement into three segments, identifying them for Product Mission, Economic Mission and Social Mission.

I think these are wonderful to have … but they are only Powerful Meaningless Words, unless you are doing something, ALL THE TIME, to see that they are 1) simple to understand and remember 2) known and understood by everyone in your company and 3) used by everyone in how they operate on a daily basis. If it is important enough to have a Mission Statement, Vision Statement and/or Guiding Principles … then USE them.

I would say it is a safe bet that 99% of the people at any company COULD NOT recite the Mission Statement, much less their Guiding Principles. Here are a few quotes that we should all give some consideration to:

“If you are going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.”“People with good intentions make promises. People with good character keep them.”“Actions prove who someone is … words just prove who they want to be.”“Don’t talk – Just act. Don’t say – Just show. Don’t promise – Just prove.”

But, you can’t ACT-SHOW-PROVE unless you know what it is you are setting out to do. Successful companies live, eat and breath their Guiding Principles. The J.M. Smucker Company does just that. From 2004 - 2017 J.M. Smucker’s has grown from $600 million to $7.39 billion in sales and their profits grew by 800%. They have also introduced 50 new products per year. They believe you should:

  • Provide a simple set of guiding principles

  • Listen with you full attention

  • Look for “the good” in others

  • Have a sense of humor

  • Say thank you for a job well done

One of their plant supervisors said, “I’ve been thanked more in one year I’ve worked here than in the 9 years I spent in my last job.” At Smucker’s, it all starts with training. Everyone is required to MEMORIZE their Guiding Principles; there is no way you can deliver on a promise if you DON’T know the promise, so they make sure everyone knows it. Zappos has 4 weeks of training that everyone goes through regardless if you are going to be a Customer Service Representative or a new Senior Executive hired from another company, all learning their Vision, Philosophy, Corporate Culture, and 10 Core Values. These are just two examples of companies who “Walk their Talk.”

Ask your employees, “What is it that we are promising our customers?” Don’t be surprised if they don’t have a clue how to answer that. By the way, that is not their fault; that is the fault of management. You first teach them the promise … then you teach them the Guiding Principles on how to deliver on that promise. Benjamin Franklin once said: “Well done is better than well said.” Don’t let your Guiding Principles, Mission and Vision statements be Powerful Meaningless Words; know them, live them, be them!


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