As I look around the leadership blogosphere, I was reminded of a game we used to play during senior officer pep talks. Now, by sharing the secrets of senior officer bingo, I’m probably only ensuring that it happens to me, but it’ll help me make a point about the pitfalls of motivating groups. Here’s how the game works – you and your wingers sit down ahead of the meeting and make a list of all the tried and true motivational one liners of your organization. Once you have a good selection, you make bingo cards. As you sit through the meeting, check ’em off until you get a full line. What to do if you win? Easy, put your hand up and ask a question. Just be sure to use the word “bingo” so all your friends know that you won…
Here’s a shopping list of the types of phrases I mean:
- “Ton for ton, the best ships in the world”
- “What’s your job? Best one I ever had.”
- “Pound for pound, the best sailors in the world.”
- “World-class (insert noun here)”
See what I mean? Everyone of us who’ve ever worked in a large organization can probably sit down and make a bingo card right now.
Here’s the thing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with engaging with your team. There’s nothing wrong with motivation. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with fostering pride in your folks. So why does this bring out cynicism? It’s because our tried and true one-liners of motivation are vague. They lack concrete terms and aren’t linked to specific, sticky things that people can touch, feel, taste or smell. For further guidance on concrete and sticky messaging, have a look at the Heath Brothers book, Made to Stick.
The way ahead? Think carefully about the message you send when trying to motivate you folks. Does it fit with the organizational culture? If you’re trying to change the culture, will your message help move in the right direction? Is you message sticky? Is it concrete? Can everyone touch, feel, taste, or smell what you’re trying to say?
For me, a successful motivational talk would be one where the bingo game has no winner…
Anyone care to share the organizational one-liners that they love to hate?