A few years ago, while working at another investment bank, I received a random call from the head our division (I ran global communications for him). He told me that our CEO had just communicated his vision for a new aspirational culture which was to be based upon several core principles – all of which began with the letter ‘I’. These words became known as the ‘Five I’s’. Rigggght.

Anyway, at the time I was tasked with making sure that EVERYONE in our division knew what these Five I’s were. As ridiculous as the premise sounds, we did come up with some creative ways of accomplishing our goal – but that’s not really the point of this post. (If, however, you are curious about some the methods I used, shoot me a note and I’d be happy to share.)

No, the point of my post is actually this…. it just happened again! Today, I am at yet another large investment bank and was just told we’re going to use yet another set of words all beginning with the same letter, to describe our aspirational culture. Sure there are bigger problems in the world – war, hunger, poverty, global warming – but seriously folks, this must stop!

So I say this to all my tens of readers, please don’t lean on schtick or gimmicks when seeking to develop or improve a team or corporate culture. Rather, lean on honesty and transparency, talk about the real problems and how you’re going to address them, talk about how you’re going to engage employees in helping to solve the problems that are of concern to them, talk about the kind of place you want to be, and about what’s genuinely important to you and about what you value…I could go on, but you get the drift. Define your culture using conversational words that you can stand by through your actions and that (very important) your employees truly understand, can relate to and feel they can follow.

Rather than this…

Our core principles are…
Invigorate!
Innovate!
Investigate!
Inspire!

Work on developing something like this…

In our company we believe in respecting each other above all else, in working hard for our clients, in collaborating to solve problems and in taking care of our people.

Just put down the dictionary and the thesaurus and TALK to people, in a genuine way, about the kind of place you’d like to become. Then once you’re done, work to ensure you are living and breathing that vision, and make decisions that lead everyone down that aspirational path (i.e. don’t preach ‘communication’ and spend all day in your office with the door closed) What’s the point of that?

If you can start with a statement that people can relate to, I guarantee your folks will feel way more Invigorated and Inspired by that than by all the ‘I’ words you can dig out of the dictionary.

Except maybe ‘Ice Cream’ – which actually works every time.

p.s.  I made it to Freshly Pressed today!  So exciting!  Thank you all for reading and if you like what you read please comment, subscribe or share via the links below.  Thanks again!

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