Ward Alles

The “art” behind motivating employees using corporate values

By Ward Alles on July 6, 2017

Leadership should set the tone and own the culture

If you want to laugh at yourself a bit, check out www.despair.com.

Especially if you’re a business leader or if you’ve worked in Human Resources long enough to become appropriately cynical.

There, you will find a series of anti-Successories images and sayings. They make me chuckle because, sadly for all of us, they can feel so true at times.

The posters read like a series of corporate values gone bad. For example:

  • Accountability – A word leaders start to use right before the scapegoating begins
  • Consistency – It’s only a virtue if you’re not a screw-up
  • Teamwork – Together we can do the work of one
  • Ruthlessness – It pays a lot better than integrity

And one of my all time favorites:

  • Motivation – If a pretty picture and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a curmudgeon. Far from it.

I love people and I love leading and motivating others. But I also know it’s an incredibly hard task. Especially when you are trying to rally entire employee groups around a set of shared cultural values.

It’s even harder to have a diverse group of people coalesce around a single big idea. You know, what Simon Sinek would call the company’s “why” … or its purpose.

As a branding firm, Core Creative is often charged with this task. Tough, when you enter into a caustic environment where people don’t believe in each other or their mission. In some corporate cultures, you’d swear they were living by these gems:

  • Believe in yourself – Because the rest of us think you’re an idiot
  • Meetings – None of us is as dumb as all of us
  • Mistakes – It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others

Still, we remain hopeful.

We have seen the good side in employees … as well as the dark. And we will continue to appeal to their better angels. Because honestly, what choice do we have?

  • Who wants to go to work in a negative environment every day?
  • Who aspires to do mediocre work?
  • Who is ever satisfied with coming in second?
  • Should we set a low bar at our companies because some employees in our midst are wired to be “Debbie Downers”?

No, it is leadership’s job to set the tone. To own the culture. To make it as positive as we can, despite the negative mojo we see and feel around us. (The trick is: you must coach the bad behavior out of your organization; otherwise, you will get what you tolerate.)

The good news is: Victory is within your grasp.

The leaders who achieve great things for their customers and their employees battle through and eventually win the cultural wars that brew within their own companies. It may take years, but a slow, steady drip of water can wear away a lot of rock. Ask the Grand Canyon. (Say, that’s a good Successories poster.)

So cheer up, good and faithful business owner!

Take heart, employer brand champion!

Your company’s purpose is bigger than any one person. More important than any group’s negative agenda.

And, if you don’t feel like you’ll ever break through, remember you can always look forward to retirement. You know…

  • Retirement – Because you’ve given so much to the company that you don’t have anything left we can use

Ward Alles is a Brand Consultant and President of Core Creative.