Rally Time

Back-schoolIt’s showtime.

School’s back in session, meaning visits are being scheduled, trunks are getting filled, and your counselors have a sense of excitement and anxiety (newbies) or ambivalence and possibly worse (veterans).

Most leaders do the basic blocking and tackling – territories are assigned, fairs are chosen, and priorities are set – but are missing one key thing.

They forget to make it fun.

The start of a new school year is where the top admission offices really separate themselves. Rather than enter the year with a random list of things to do, they choose one overarching focus around which to drive their employees’ activities and results.

In the entrepreneurship world, Verne Harnish is a huge proponent of themes to rally the team around and drive success. In his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, he explains:

A company’s goals and priorities won’t be successful in driving the organization if they’re easily forgotten or ignored. Once you’ve established what’s important for your team to accomplish in the next quarter or year, you’ve got to do something to help them make the necessary emotional connection that engenders commitment.

What separates a plan on paper from one that lives and breathes on its own? It’s an idea, an image – in short, an organizing theme. That’s what transforms a mere managerial goal into an organizational mission.

To get people to storm the barricades on your behalf, you’ve got to give them a concept that connects not just with their heads but also with their hearts.

This need to connect with the feelings and desires of your workforce is proven and well accepted. In their seminal book, “The Leadership Challenge,” authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner speak powerfully of the need for leaders to “encourage the heart” when seeking organizational alignment.

Key to any theme is consistent reinforcement, and you achieve it through publicly tracking progress and keeping score.

Finally, don’t forget to celebrate success! Here’s a letter Harnish shared:

Dear Verne: I have to relay a story of success. One of our metrics is “contracts requested” of which we close over 70%. In January we averaged 10 a week. In March, our marketing manager and I put up a HUGE laminated poster with each of the 52 weeks across the bottom and numbers up to 200 in increments of 10. In April I took out a pen and wrote up at the top:

“If we hit 200 in one week, before my birthday, we will shut down the office and I will take the entire office out to a karaoke bar and sing whatever you all want, in whatever costume you all wish!”

I am proud to say we hit that mark this week, actually by Thursday — in only four days, and the entire office is high-fiving and hooting and hollering while I am writing this.

Yesterday we had a happy hour to celebrate, an actual karaoke party, complete with my rendition of “It’s Raining Men” by Patti LaBelle in a horrendous drag outfit. A video of the event will be at “City Streets” a very large club here in Houston. The office is contacting friends, media, etc, to make this as painful as possible.

Pete Patterson President Capital Recovery Group

Harnish adds, “Good themes don’t pop out of thin air. The most powerful themes are those anchored in quantitative goals. With plan in hand, take your top priority and align it with your critical number – that one key measurable that you want your team to focus upon. Then brainstorm a theme to go with it. It ought to be something that will make the numbers memorable.”

Are you kicking off the new school year with an energizing theme – something to rally the troops and get them focused? If someone asked one of your employees what the focus is for the upcoming year, could he or she tell them?

If not, you still have time to pick a theme, put up big reminders where everyone can see them, and plan a celebration and reward for when it’s been achieved.

If you want specific examples of what other organizations have used for themes, email me at cwills@studentpaths.com with the secret password THEME in the subject line and I’ll send some your way.

Chris Wills About Chris Wills

Father Time, or Chris Wills, is passionate about helping other leaders learn and grow and free up time they didn’t think they had. He is the Founder of Student Paths, an organization that better prepares students for their future in college, career and life readiness. You can reach Chris at: cwills@studentpaths.com

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