In Braveheart, Mel Gibson’s character cries “Alba gu bràth" as he and his men forge boldly into battle. The Gaelic phrase, which means roughly "Scotland until judgment" or "Scotland forever,” gave the troops something to rally around and inspired them to remember why they were fighting. Such a rallying cry is useful in the battle of day-to-day business as well because it provides something for the entire team to rally around for the greater goals of the company. An over-arching initiative must provoke emotion and instill ownership in each person. To rally individuals, you need to declare the what, communicate the why, and work together on the how.
The what needs to have an internal and external component. Jay Moss, Chief Marketing Officer at Woodside Homes, shares that their theme is to “master the heart and soul of Better by Design.” The internal component is to have mastery as a way of doing business, rather than just a tagline. This translates externally to a better experience and value for the client. One of the main themes for my company is creating an “Un-leavable Culture that Creates a Decade of Mutually Profitable Relationships.” The internal focus is our culture. We want our company to be a place where people love coming to work every day and feel energized and fulfilled. In an un-leavable culture, employees are loyal to their peers, their coach, and their company. They also feel good about their work—knowing that they will never be asked to do anything that dishonors themselves, their team, or their family. In addition to decreasing turnover by increasing trust, this internal culture will make us a partner companies must have as a part of their 10-year plan. Partnering with our clients is the external component of the theme.
The theme is the what, but the only way to grab hold of the team’s passion and get them to own it is to make sure the why is clear. There must be a compelling reason for employees to make the goal their own. People want to be stimulated and challenged. In our case, a decade of partnership with the same companies requires us to continually create programs that are better than the previous year.
After the what and the why are in place, you can move on to the how. Gather your team. Include everyone in the brainstorming. For us, I came up with the what and the why, then gave it to my team to come up with the how. You need their support and buy-in to achieve the goal. Give them a week so everyone has some time to think about it. In our example, employees came up with their own personal themes—all of which supported the company vision. They asked themselves, “What can I do to make this theme happen?” and declared their ideas to the rest of the team. Each week, we have a theme meeting where people start by saying, “My theme is…” and “the main thing I’m doing this week to get closer to that theme is.…” This turns everyone’s attention to the team goal. You can’t control the results, but you can develop a strategy and get ownership from the team toward achieving that result. In order to engage each person, have everyone share ideas about how they will contribute to the effort personally as well as how they’ll support each other.
The how must include everyone and not pit anyone against each other. If sales are low, it’s easy to blame salespeople. Or if the company’s reputation is struggling, it’s easy to point the finger at the overarching brand. This leads to turf wars rather than a common target to work toward together. The most effective companies and teams don’t just focus on an individual piece. Initiatives include everyone. While each person is accountable for their own results, everyone is responsible for reaching the goals. Always assign a deadline, and throw a party when you accomplish the goal. That way, the team meets the goal together.
It takes a team to build a dream. Everyone is affected when the company wins or loses. When sales are low, the whole team suffers. Or if the brand is off target, then their image is tarnished. Whatever the struggle, themes can’t be about politics and finger pointing but must provide a clear vision that is worth rallying around.
We win together. We lose together. Let’s win together.