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Why are mantras an effective leadership hack? 3 guidelines for creating your own mantras

"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."– Rudyard Kipling

04/21/2022


Leaders are rising to the challenge of creating cohesive teams focused on a common goal. The solution starts with developing a set of shared values that outline HOW the team will achieve that goal. Leaders must face this every day, taking on dysfunctional teams who are misaligned culturally, unclear of the objectives, or simply selfish teammates. We have all witnessed levels of dysfunction usually rooted in the leader's inability to attract the right talent, set the expectations, and create a culture where people hold themselves accountable to the team standards. The worst of these situations require a turnaround specialist to pivot the company and support the team driving a successful outcome. The speed at which these leaders move an otherwise perpetually underperforming business is fascinating to watch unfold. Mantras are a distinctive tool expert turnaround leaders utilize with efficiency.


What is a mantra?

Mantras are a super hack connecting the team vision, mission, and core values to the everyday events (read: conflicts) in the business. Every business has friction around what the owner wants, what the customer wants, and what each team member wants. Experienced leaders know that mantras are the keystone leadership behavior that establishes the boundaries of their culture to navigate these conflicts.


Why are mantras effective?

Psychology has proven humans act in their best interest 40% of the time. A large portion of the 60% of negative actions is baked into humans' subconscious behavior patterns. Put another way - the negative behavior is unintentional. Raising people's awareness of their actions' broader impact is a great start. Work-life balance and Customer First core values require a persistent, vigilant message to navigate. A consistent communication framework around these situations will comfort people in otherwise stressful conditions. 

Extrovert Leaders: We talk too much. Our overly verbose communication style often loses the critical message, leaving people confused. The crisp nature of mantras is a welcome method of communication.


Introvert Leaders: Mantras create a beautiful framework for leaders to develop their voice and leadership style. Developing leaders learn how best to hold people accountable through dealing with conflict resolution situations. 


What are 3 guidelines for creating your own mantras?


Simplicity: Humans respond to simple, positive, impactful messages. If you can make them rhyme, more power to you.


Team Standards: The objective is to reinforce the team standards that everyone has accepted. "Attack standards and values, not people." Yes, this is a favorite leadership mantra of mine. 


Authenticity: Be genuine. A leader's actions are 10x more powerful than their words. Quickly shed any mantras you are not actioning or are no longer authentic to the company culture. 


Mantras in action:

Russ Kathrein, while CEO of Alexander Lumber, wanted to improve the company's customer service at the jobsite and reduce its delivery driver turnover. "Own the last mile" became the mantra for the team. This mantra embroidered on sharp summer vests and winter coats exclusive to delivery drivers gave the drivers the earned respect and focused their initiative.  

Garrett Moore, CEO of Agorus and Navy Seals officer, shared humility is a constant objective as a leader:


"No one is too big to pick up a broom."

 "Abandon self, embrace the team."

 "Ranked in order of priority:  Team, Teammate, Self."


Matt Semonik, Vice President of Arnold Lumber Company and ex-US Marine platoon leader, shared his favorite team building mantras:


"Culture first: hire the culture you want, not the culture you have."

"If you can't change the people around you, change the people around you."

 "Is it a "can't do" or a "won't do" situation?"

"Process - Mirror - Person" – When looking at someone's performance: Is the process broken, have I done everything I can do, what is the person doing/not doing.

 

Hire Smarter best practice: The best President candidates are constantly refining their list of trademark mantras. Leaders must be able to evangelize their mission. What are your signature mantras?

 

Hire Smarter™– Tony

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