Rallying Cries Win Wars, Build Culture

Don't underestimate the power of a call to action to get people to support your initiatives.

October 9, 2014

We shall overcome.
Make love, not war.
No taxation without representation.

Just as they do in social movements, company rallying cries communicate big ideas in simple, powerful ways that unite people around a common struggle or goal. In the wake of the Scottish independence movement’s recent failure to win the referendum, supporters have created a campaign group called “We are the 45%.” In four words, they communicate a fact (45 percent of the population voted to leave the union) as well as the idea that their presence is large, they are still unhappy, and they want to have their voices heard.

Similarly, in “Braveheart,” the blockbuster movie about the 13th century struggle for Scottish independence, Mel Gibson’s character cries, “Alba gu bràth” as he and his men forge boldly into battle. The Gaelic phrase, which means roughly “Scotland forever,” gave the troops a rallying cry and inspired them to remember why they were fighting.

No matter the place and time, humans like to organize their efforts around a strong call to action. The stakes may be lower, but the principle applies to the “battle” of day-to-day business as well. A rallying cry can provide a focal point and instill ownership over common problems for each person on your team.

If sales are low, for example, it’s easy for agents to focus on their own numbers and not see themselves as a part of the bigger team or company. Or if the brokerage brand or reputation is struggling, it’s easy to point the finger at the owner or corporate board, usually in some far-away office.

This leads to turf wars rather than a common goal to work toward together. The most effective team cultures don’t just focus on the individual pieces; their initiatives include everyone. While one department may be accountable for the results, everyone is responsible for getting the team there.      

So how can you, as a leader, implement this strategy? I recommend creating a monthly theme that every individual can rally around—something that invites everyone to ask, “What can I do to make this theme happen?”

For example, we’re currently working on creating trust in my organization. We’re calling it “omakase,” which is a Japanese word meaning “I’ll leave it to you.” The idea of omakase is that when someone truly owns up to a responsibility and makes it his or her own, the team or leader can hand it over and entrust it to them with confidence.

Be specific, with real, actionable language. Instead of saying, “We need to increase sales,” try something catchy like “100 in 30.” The latter gives concreteness to the goal of reaching 100 sales in 30 days and provides opportunities to create posters and internal collateral to engage everybody at every level. Always give a deadline, and organize some sort of celebration for when you accomplish the goal.

The only way to create something worth rallying around is to make sure you engage each and every team member, no matter where the problem is. Have everyone, including office managers, other staff, and yourself as a broker, come up with ideas about how they will contribute to the effort. Remind them that even if the issue is not directly in their department, everyone is affected. When sales are low, every department will suffer if they don’t turn around. If customer service is lacking, the whole agency will be compromised and the brand tarnished. Or, if you have an internal culture issue, it’s everybody’s struggle and everybody’s victory.

Once you have a clear vision or idea, create a rallying cry that holds everyone responsible. We win together. We lose together. Alba gu bràth!

Jason Forrest is a sales trainer, management coach, member of the National Speakers Association’s Million Dollar Speakers Group, and author of three books, including his latest, Leadership Sales Coaching. Learn more at  www.fpg.com.