What are words worth?

Recently, I ran into the mission statement below. Do you have any idea what firm might have formulated this ambitious vision?  Which company would write (or as will become clear in the next paragraph, rather wrote) such big words?


It may come to you as a complete surprise, but – ironically enough – the mission statement above was owned by… Lehman Brothers. The financial services firm that collapsed in September 2008 and triggered a superior, unprecedented, global financial crisis. Their bold mission statement remains, the rest is history…

Actually, you may try any mission statement generator on the web (such as the one here) and I can assure you that its output may be as good as the text created by Lehman’s communication agency – for which they probably paid thousands of dollars.

Here’s a simple lesson. Stay away from buzz words, hollow phrases and meaningless statements. Tell the people what you really stand for. What you do. The value you deliver. Let your customers speak for you. Talk your walk. Walk your talk. And walk your walk.

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Walk and do look back

Past summer vacation I went trail hiking in the mountains. Already during the first walk, I found out that one of my travel companions was obsessed with topographic map reading. As such he was certainly of great help for planning the excursion and keeping the herd on track.


But, untrained as I was  (and maybe getting a bit older and slower too), this same person also turned out to be a major source of irritation. I can assure you that it is frustrating to be constantly trailing 100 meters behind a self-declared leader, who is only concentrating on his map and not paying attention to the folks that aren’t able to keep up with his pace – and as such getting (literally and figuratively) disconnected from the group.

Unfortunately, I have seen the same happen with professional speakers too. Though they carefully prepared their slides and rehearsed their presentation, they neglected to pay attention to the (non-verbal) feedback from the people in the room.

So, here’s a piece of advice to all business presenters: your audience is far more important than your slide deck. Pause, repeat and summarize often. And slow down your talk when people start dropping out.

And for my hiking buddy, there are also some leadership lessons to take away: don’t waste your energy scrutinously executing a plan, when your associates are not at the same speed (yet). Walk on, but don’t forget to look back from time to time!

Additional reading: