02 May Leadership Lessons from the World’s Religions
by Dave Kerpen and Andy Cohen– Many of the world’s great religions have been going strong for thousands of years. How many institutions or businesses can claim that kind of success (quick – can you name 5 companies that have been in business over 200, no less 2000, years)? Whether you believe in a religion or not, there’s no questioning the fact that the world’s major religions have been going strong far longer than most companies, organizations and even governments. What best practices can you learn from these religious institutions to keep your organization going strong long into the future? – 1. Put regular celebration and recognition of your stars on the calendar. Make it impossible to forget. This is not always easy to do (have you ever seen an Employee of the Month plaque that is up-to-date?). Put event funding in your budget and hold the event at the same time every year or quarter to make it a habit. Make something about the event fun, unforgettable, and rewarding in its own right. At Andy’s real estate company Rock Properties in Newark, NJ, families are invited to the annual celebration dinner and the company mascot Rox attends in full costume. Organizers hide wrapped rock candy in spaces all over the room. Rox and the children hunt for the candy and then pose for pictures together. Children love the event every year and begin to ask their parents months in advance when they can collect rock candy and see Rox again. This makes sure the adults in charge don’t let lapse the importance and scheduling of the annual employee recognition dinner.
2. Incorporate rituals and traditions. Rituals and traditions make events meaningful for participants. At the annual Rock Properties dinner, a group photo is taken, put in a frame with a large mat, and everyone in attendance autographs the mat with a short personal note. The annual framed picture with autographs then hangs in the Rock headquarters for all to see. Staff and families line up to not miss the chance of signing the annual plaque – they want to be included for all-times sake. This gives the entire dinner added meaning.
– 3. Have a clear company mission that gives meaning to the whole organization.How painful are most mission statements to read? If your company has one, can you recite it from memory? If your mission statement is longer than the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer, think about shortening it. If the gist of it fits on a bumper sticker, even better. For example, Zappo’s: Delivering Happiness. – 4. Tell the story of how your organization was founded and how it developed. Almost everyone knows where Hewlett Packard started (a garage) or GE started (Thomas Edison’s labs). Have a short, simple version of how your company came into being that can inspire your staff, customers, and investors. Then tell that story, over and over. Stories inspire. – 5. Keep your message simple and repeat it often. Your company may be global, but if it’s not, imagine it is. How are you going to communicate your mission to far-flung employees who speak different languages? Keep your message simple, don’t try to communicate more than one or two main points at a time, and repeat the message often – just like religions do.
6. Change with the times while staying true to your core mission. Always look to the future but always experiment with change. Any innovations should meet the test of your mission and should be reversible if they don’t work. Even the Pope is on Twitter now – surely, your organization can innovate. (Here’s how.) – 7. Eat meals with your employees and customers. When is the last time you invited your largest clients to a meal together? Have you ever seen the frenzy surrounding a free pizza lunch with the office staff? These should be regularly scheduled events, tied to the seasons or other events, so they don’t get skipped. Meals bring people together, are fun, and memorable. – These seven practices have all helped Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and other world religions thrive for thousands of years. Even if you hate organized religion, you have to appreciate that these institutions must be doing something right to last so long. How can you implement these practices to become a better leader and help your organization thrive? —–
Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite elements of your religion? How can you apply these lessons to your leadership skills and your company? Which of these seven lessons do you and your organization do well now? What companies do you think best use these lessons? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below, and please do share this post with your network – like great religions, great marketers always spread the good word! .