Coaching Blog – The Connection Between Common Values and Team Success

Do you ever wonder how people have overcome extreme challenges and emerged stronger people? Here’s a quick story about my former POW cellmate Smitty Harris and his wife Louise.

(Read a sample of their story on the Captured by Love website.)

Smitty was an experienced fighter pilot and became a POW who resisted and endured for almost 8 years. Louise was the first Air Force wife whose husband went missing in action (MIA). They had two toddlers, and she was eight months pregnant when he was shot down. While Smitty was resisting the enemy for eight years, Louise was standing tough back home, operating as a single mom in an era when women were still limited in what they could legally do.

Values Strengthen Resilience

In their story, Smitty and Louise share how their common values helped them endure difficult times and reunite in a wonderful way. They have now been married more than sixty years!

They are just one of several stories in our upcoming new book, Captured by Love: Inspiring True Romance Stories from Vietnam POWs (releasing on May 30th), where spiritual faith was a strong anchor for our values in the POW camps and for the wives back home. Faith helps you believe in your future, that you can survive and come out the other side of tragedy, disappointment, and suffering.

How can you apply this idea of common values in your own personal and professional life? Watch my brief coaching clip, and then keep reading the article below –


50th Anniversary Celebration

This year we celebrate fifty years—a half century—since the US and North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords, ending our war in Vietnam. That historic agreement stipulated that all POWs would be released within sixty days. We returned home in several groups during February and March with sick and wounded first and then in order of capture—first in were first out.

The two groups that came home in February had been there from six to eight years. I was in the third group released on March 14th. Most in our group were captured in the fall of 1967, so we had been POWs for over five years. As you can imagine, the POWs and their families learned a lot about resilience during that time. And it helped us after we came home. Our 50th anniversary reunion will be in May, just before the Captured by Love book is released.

Commitment Strengthens Resilience

Commitment through a common set of values was another big part of our resilience. We committed to live by the military Code of Conduct –six articles requiring faithfulness to our duty, our country, and our teammates. Our leaders in the camps came up with a short motto that clarified how to remain faithful to all – “Resist, Survive, and Return with Honor.” Our commitment to these values and each other helped us endure torture, hunger, and hardship for many years.

Back home, the wives and families were greatly challenged to test their level of resilience, too. As told in our new book, some of the wives did not know if their husbands were dead or alive for years. Yet they did their duty as wives and mothers, and even stood up to support our cause in a very powerful and globally visible way. Their stories provide inspiring examples of how they endured and served their family back home and the POWs far away.

Honor Drives Resilience

Honor was another important part of our resilience that helped us endure the POW era, and it’s closely tied to values and commitment. By definition, honor is “adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct.”

After several years of resisting and surviving in the camps, we dropped those words “resisting” and “surviving” from our motto and it became simply “Return with Honor.” That was our goal, and it guided our behavior. In reflection, I saw how the concept of honor had helped us endure, do our duty, and achieve our mission. it gave us a framework for maintaining our character and values and keeping our commitments against an oppressive communist regime.

Applying Values in Your Leadership Strategy

Understanding the importance that a common set of values made in our POW survival, our team at Leading with Honor developed the Honor Code. Its seven values enable leaders and teams today to confidently resist temptations and help them recover quickly when they get off course. Over 100,000 people have downloaded this simple and powerful tool!

Take a moment and reflect on the concept of values and resilience with these questions:


  1. Do you connect with your spiritual faith every day? Meditation and reflection are considered a powerful tool by all religions.
  2. Do you keep your commitments? What do you do when you see that you can’t keep them? Do you have a friend, cohort, or team, that can help and encourage you in keeping them?
  3. Do you have a set of standards to clarify your commitment to be an honorable person? Do you use them to coach yourself regularly to keep correcting back on course to live an honorable life?


I’ll continue to highlight a key resilience-focused principle from Captured by Love this year, so please stay connected with us. In the meantime, commit to your faith and values as you grow as an honorable leader. Someone is always watching to see how you will live and lead—what a great opportunity to influence and inspire others.

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20 Top Gun Romance Stories! Pre-Order Your Copy

Captured by Love shares the real love stories of 20 Vietnam War POWs. Some had wives who started a movement that changed American foreign policy. Others came home and had to start over, while five single men met the loves of their lives.

Former POW Lee Ellis and love expert Greg Godek take you on a dramatic journey of faithfulness, passion, excitement, resilience, and practical love lessons from these couples.

From the Foreword Authors – 

“What I have cherished but didn’t anticipate is a 50-year relationship with these couples. Please enjoy these dramatic and touching stories about my friends, and I hope that you’re as inspired as I was long ago.”

– Tony Orlando, Top-Selling Recording Artist, Songwriter, Concert Headliner, Network Television Star, Motion Picture Actor, Broadway Performer, and Author

“Most readers will experience a few tears here, but also lots of laughter as they engage with these stories. The stunning level of pain and sacrifice that our POWs endured is mind-boggling, but the love and romance that they have experienced is even more extraordinary!”

– Gary Sinise, Actor, Musician, Author, and Founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation


Pre-Order Your Copy on

Read two sample stories



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