Vision statements. Mission statements. Core values. Taglines.

All of the above have two things in common: first, they are just words. And secondly, financial institutions spend far too much time haggling over them to get the meaning “just right.”

Please note that by saying they are “just words” I don’t mean vision, mission and values are not important. Far from it. They are the essence of why you exist and they serve as a valuable tool to differentiate yourself from the hundreds of competitors you have. The also help guide your organization and serve as a compass.

However, in planning sessions or branding workshops boards and executive teams can fall into a few traps with these important statements. For example, watch these potential minefields:

Spending too much time on just the right words

If you are taking hours and hours to craft the perfect statement then you are missing the point. Arguing over “should we have ‘the’ or ‘a’ in this spot,” is a waste of time. Focusing on the big picture is far more important than digging in the weeds. As Rory Rowland sometimes says, you need to employ the GEPO principle, for when it’s “Good Enough, Push On.”

Putting too many words into a statement

When crafting a vision, mission or tagline groupthink can easily dominate the room. To make everyone happy and to include all parties the end result is often a long and flowing statement that means absolutely nothing. Follow the simple rule of keeping your key statements to six words or less. Check out Why Most Vision Statements Fall Short for tips on getting yours just right.

Making your statements generic

If your vision, mission and taglines include words like “community,” “people,” and “service” then you are just like every other financial institution in your area. Have you ever driven down the highway and seen a billboard that says, “Come to our bank—we HATE people and our community.” Everyone seems to love people, love the community and love serving others. Dig deep and look for ways to make your key statements differentiate, resonate and substantiate.

Forgetting it is about living your words

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what words you use when describing your brand if your employees are not living it. You need to spend more time focusing on how your staff delivers on your key statements every single day than you do what those statements actually say. Your staff’s actions trump your executive’s words.

Words do indeed matter. They mean something. And you need to invest time crafting a vision, a mission and a tagline.

However, there comes a point when you need to stop wordsmithing your statements and start deciding what you are actually going to be about and what you are going to live.