The Power of a Slogan A Few Words Can Powerfully Impact Your Leadership
In the mid 1980’s, the State of Texas had a litter problem. Legislation to address the problem and force people to change failed. Then four words made a massive impact: Don’t Mess with Texas. The slogan reduced the litter problem by a whopping 72% within a few short years.
I want to talk to you today about the power a few words can have on your leadership and how to make them effective.
The term slogan immediately brings to mind phrases like, “Can you hear me now?” Or, “I’m lovin’ it!” Or, “Got milk?” And of course there’s, “Just do it.” All catchy phrases oscillate between silly and simplistic to draw in potential consumers. Can we use that same technique to positively impact our teams?
Don’t Mess With Texas
Slogans can be extremely helpful in influencing behavior on our teams, organizations, communities—and most importantly, ourselves. They are short, memorable, and attention-getting. Why did Don’t Mess with Texas work? How did they make that campaign a success? First they selected a phrase to appeal to the Texas sense of bravado. Then they elicited the help of the nationally renowned Dallas Cowboys football team to help them launch the campaign. Those words were plastered all over the State.
When I first moved to Texas in the early 1990’s, I remember seeing the Don’t Mess with Texas signs. They communicated a mild fear, implying that if I were to “mess with Texas,” something really bad might happen. Perhaps a gun-toting lawman on a galloping horse would chase me down. Now that I am a Texan, I have a sense of pride in my State and membership in a group of people that cannot be messed with. All I have to do to be a part of that group is not litter.
We Are Ladies and Gentlemen, Taking Care of Ladies and Gentlemen
Coming up with a powerful phrase is not easy. Once you find it though, if used repeatedly and effectively, it can advance your leadership. Don’t dismiss it as a silly way to communicate. The Ritz Carlton employs a phrase that illustrates the power of a slogan. In regard to organizational leadership, all Ritz employees are required to carry a card in their pocket which reads: “We are ladies and gentlemen, taking care of ladies and gentlemen.” I have never been in any other organization where I am treated as a gentleman by every single employee, the way I am at the Ritz. Not only did they come up with the words to capture the heart of their people, appealing to their innate desire to be a lady or a gentleman, but also to care for others as such. They make it effective by keeping that phrase in front of their staff to the degree that it affects the entire culture.
On our team, we have several phrases we repeat and reflect on intentionally. Here are a few: Saving cents, saving seconds. Be salt and light. Be personal, not just professional.
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