Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Give Them Some History

Elite military organizations, such as the United States Marine Corps and the French Foreign Legion, have known this secret for years. They tell their new recruits about the history of the organization and why a special status is given to those who are permitted to enter their ranks. They don't talk about benefits or offer special deals. They discuss challenges, duty, and tradition. This high standard, they say, is what is expected of you and if you aren't willing or able to meet it, then you shouldn't be here.

Shift now to other organizations where you can work for years without ever hearing about the outfit's origins and struggles, where the legends and stories are not told in any organized manner. In those places, work becomes "behavior for rent." There is no greater meaning and no sense of the past.

That omission is a huge mistake. Having said that, let me rush to say that pep talks alone are insufficient. If you talk about the group's history and its values, the current conduct and atmosphere have to mesh or all of the words will ring false.

Give them substance, live up to it, and you'll tap into enormous power. This is an ancient urge. People want to be associated with a larger cause.

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