Who doesn’t love a good theme party? Disco night, glow in the dark, superhero, masquerade, pick your favorite! If you’re not the one organizing it, you probably have a friend who is enthusiastically rallying everyone around their latest creative inspiration.

Love them or hate them, themes allow you to try on something new. Pretend a bit and see how it feels to be or do something different than you’re used to. Get into a different mindset and see where it takes you.

You’re probably not going to keep the mask or the glow-in-the-dark paint on every day, but it will likely provide you with some fun, lasting memories!

Okay, but how is this going to translate to work?

Themes at work will (probably) be less about a costume and more about the mindset. But they both allow you to try on something new and see where it takes you.

It’s no secret that we’ve all done a lot of introspection and decided we’re done working for some crappy company with no purpose and soul. To attract and hang onto great people, companies should have a plan that everyone in the organization can follow and get excited about. And we’ll give you that "something" everyone can get on board with - a theme. 

Create a theme

You can read about planning here and download our planning guide here.

But I want to talk about the "theme" you’re going to create as a part of your plan—the theme that will inspire and motivate your team to make the plan a reality.

What does your organization need right now to get it together? There’s always that one thing – you look at your company and think, “Eh, we need to stop wasting time on unnecessary tasks.” Or “We always overcomplicate things!” Or maybe there is toxic behavior in your circle (clients, partners, team) dragging everyone down.

Figure out what is holding you back, slowing you down, or distracting your attention from the most important areas. Make fixing that problem area the focus of your theme for the year. Spend a year reinforcing the new, positive behavior that you want to replace the current “holding you back” behavior.

For example, if you are struggling with overcomplicating things, your theme for the year could be “Simplify.” Throughout the year, evaluate everything you come in contact with through the lens of “Simplify.” For every meeting, process, communication, and interaction, ask yourselves, “Are we doing this with simplicity so everyone can easily follow along? Are there extraneous things that don’t need to be included?”

Creating a theme can help focus everyone’s attention on the ONE mindset you most want to impact. Throughout the course of the year and next year, hopefully, you will have engrained the new behavior into the team. And then, you can pick a new theme to focus on a new idea for the next year!

Damn the torpedoes

I worked for an organization where my boss made a pitch to reorganize and unify separate sales teams that had come together through acquisitions. He was eventually given the go-ahead to do it but was met with a pessimistic attitude from all directions. The company was a little lost in its overall strategy, yet, as the sales team, it was our job to convince customers we were a strong, unified, focused company.

He knew we needed confidence and belief in what we were selling to make this new sales team successful. In his effort to bolster the team spirit, we created our own goals, team structure, and culture to support the confidence and trust we needed in each other to achieve this impossible task. It was exciting because we were told it couldn’t be done, yet we had a leader who, at least publicly, had unwavering confidence in us that we could do it.

We all rallied around the goal and had team meetings on how we would do it. Our alternating excitement and defeat felt like a perpetual rollercoaster as we trudged through the process. At one particularly emotionally charged meeting, our fearless leader emphatically proclaimed, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Well, that was it. That became the theme for our team and our rallying cry. All we had to say was that one line, and everyone knew what it represented:

  • a reminder of the goals we set
  • the confidence in ourselves and our team’s abilities
  • the belief that we were selling something of value to the clients
  • the desire for constant pursuit of improvement
  • proving to everyone that the impossible CAN BE DONE

One small phrase changed everything for the team. We created a logo and used it on our internal materials, printed posters to hang at our desks, and used it as the theme for our quarterly off-site training sessions. We had team jackets embroidered with the logo and wore them proudly.

We carried the spirit of that idea every day and used it as our constant reminder that we were working toward something larger than just a revenue number. Yet all the energy we poured into that “something larger” drove the pursuit of the revenue number.

How to make a theme work for you

A few pivotal ideas and actions drove our success. And they’re the same key ideas for any successful company plan. Make the plan and theme work by having:

  1. a leader with a clear vision and strong leadership to drive natural team accountability
  2. regular communication about the progress
  3. team members participate in developing and managing the plan
  4. roles clearly identified and defined
  5. each person understands how their role fits into the whole

I look at this experience very fondly because it worked. It was a real-life example of great leadership and teamwork making a significant difference for the company and each of us professionally. You can have this same enthusiasm and dedication from your team. Brainstorm the “must change/must create” mindsets you and the team want to adopt, and get started!

Learn more about the Platinum Advisors Summit (offered exclusively for NAHU members)

Photo by lacheev