People want meaning and purpose in their work. The leader’s job is to create that meaning. Show them their part in it and its effect on them. Lou Holtz, University of Notre Dame Football coach and one of the top 15 winningest coaches in college football history, used to tell his freshmen players in their first meeting, “Gentlemen, in the comic strip Pogo, there was a character who once said, ‘The solution is obvious, either we become them or they become us.’ I can assure everyone in this room that we are not going to become you. You must become Notre Dame. I want you to learn everything we do at Notre Dame, how we do it, why we do it. It’s important that you learn our methods now so that when you become juniors or seniors you can provide the proper leadership for our younger players. That is essential if we are to enjoy continued success. We did not recruit you to change the University of Notre Dame but to conform to the morals and values of this great institution. You won’t change Notre Dame, but Notre Dame is going to change you.” Holtz said that his speech “was establishing a standard, setting a tone from day one. We have all see many great companies and schools fail to pass on their rich traditions to the next generation. They are shortchanging their people.” Organizational traditions can help give people meaning by providing a sense of why and a broader perspective on their individual functions.
More importantly, as Lou Holtz did, you the leader, must live the vision and communicate it in everything that you do. The more you live the vision, the clearer it will become and the more deeply your will understand it. Warren Bennis wrote in, Old Dogs, New Tricks, “To communicate a vision, you need more than words, speeches, memos, and laminated plaques. You need to live a vision, day in, day out, embodying it and empowering every other person to execute that vision in everything he or she does, anchoring it in realities, so that it becomes a template for decision making. Actions do speak louder than words.”