Think of the one-liners you’ve come across that businesses (or organisations) use to define themselves. Most are well-crafted word-bites that state succinctly where the heart of the business is–what makes them ‘tick,’ so to speak.
Our school’s software provider uses the motto: ‘Teach more. Know more. Stress less.’ As any teacher will tell you, this is the deal-clincher. What educator wouldn’t want to do more for their students but with less stress? This makes this software package appealing before you even try the product.
I suppose that’s why companies, organisations, churches and clubs have mottos: they want to convey an image of what they are all about.
But what if the motto doesn’t match what the organisation actually delivers?
I have seen a fundamentalist, ‘hellfire-and-brimstone’ church with the motto ‘The Church with a Heart.’ But it seems this loving nature is reserved for members only.
I have witnessed a business with the motto ‘Excellence. Always.’ provide very poor customer service and shoddy workmanship.
Christian organisations whose mottos include words such as ‘Integrity,’ ‘Honour,’ or ‘Truth’ seem to display anything but these values in their interactions with employees and those whom they are meant to be serving.
We could look at these examples and declare with a high level of certainty that these are prime displays of hypocrisy and deceit. This may be true. There have been numerous cases of those who convey that they are people of honour and integrity, only to find they are liars, cheaters and embezzlers.
Yet, I am without doubt that no person or organisation sets out to intentionally mislead and create distrust and disillusionment. Even though many have ‘fallen from grace,’ we cannot state categorically that they decided from the outset that they would dishonour their profession, associates, partners, cause, Church or God.
This has led me to draw the conclusion that mottos are aspirational. They are what a business, group, or club would like to be known for–not necessarily where they are at this point in time. If this is so, then, we would expect that folks in these organisations would be passionate about striving to be people who show ‘Respect’ to one another, or who strive for ‘Excellence’ in all they do.
To remind us of these noble objectives, we hard-wire them into our ‘brand,’ our ‘marketing strategies,’ and our logo. We emblaze them on sides of buildings, stationery and walls. We remind ourselves of them every time we come together, be it in a board meeting, an annual meeting of shareholders, a match, or a church service. These words become part of our identity.
But it’s one thing to display these values for the whole world to see. It’s a far greater goal to live up to the labels you give yourself.
Perhaps it would do us well–and the organisations, companies, and associations to which we belong–not to be so adamant in putting a label on ourselves or our organisations, but aspiring to live out those values in what we do and how we treat one another every day.