You’ve got to love a good mantra or motto.  One of my favourites is Dory’s “Just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo. 

Traditionally they are used as team or self-motivators. They can also be used to drive accountability. We typically use KPI’s  (key performance indicators), job descriptions, project deliverables and company values to measure team and individual performance. Mantras provide something different – they encapsulate how people are expected to act and provide a simple framework to hold each other accountable.

About five years ago, I was lucky enough to be sent to the Disney Quality Service Program at DisneyWorld, Florida. What a fantastic experience! Over three days, I spent time in a classroom, and out in the parks, discovering the strategies and practices Disney has in place to deliver their outstanding guest experience.

They have two mottos, and I got to see them both in action when visiting the parks with my family. 

  1. Good is not good enough
  2. It’s not my fault, but it is my problem

Every single staff member knows precisely what these statements mean, and Disney ensures that the culture, processes and technology exist to support them to deliver it. 

Before we arrived at Disney, we signed up for their photography package. They have photographers placed all over the park, and for a reasonable price, you can have unlimited professional photos taken of your family in front of the attractions. It’s a great idea because no one is missing from the photo and you don’t have to ask strangers to do you a favour. 

So we’re in front of the iconic Disney castle having family photos taken. We would have been happy with the stock standard shot but ‘good is not good enough’ at DisneyWorld. The photographer asked to take a photo of our daughter on her own. She pulled in for a close up and asked our daughter to put her hands out in front of her pretending to hold something and to look down like she was surprised. My daughter played along, and when we downloaded the photo, Tinkerbell was in her hands. 

Surprised young girl holding an animated Disney character at Disneyland

The photographer knew the motto. She also knew that she was supported by a culture that rewarded this behaviour and by processes and technology that would help her deliver an incredible experience that we would never forget. 

“It’s not my fault, but it is my problem” has stuck with me to this day. It’s a powerful statement that encourages people to take responsibility for making a situation better, even if it was caused by something they didn’t do. It also encourages teams to help each other out. 

Another mantra I’ve seen work very well is ‘No surprises’. I was a part of a team where this meant a lot to my boss. Not only did it set clear expectations, it also demonstrated that he had our backs. If problems occurred, or mistakes made, it was expected that we’d be upfront and honest about it immediately. While there was an element of self-protection in this approach, when you think about it, someone can’t have your back if they don’t know what’s going on. I never once felt unsupported by him when something went wrong, and because of that, I was never afraid to tell him. 

How do you come up with a mantra for your team?

Together! It’s best to come up with them as a team, so you end up with something everyone believes in and agrees to follow. To help you achieve this, I’ve created a simple workshop structure in the tools section below. Once you’ve decided on something, it’s critical to make sure it fits in with the overall company’s vision and values.

Something to watch

A quote to inspire you

A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and The Infinite Game

A simple tool to help

Click here to access an agenda for a 60 to 90-minute workshop you could run with your team to come up with one or two mantras.

You’ve got to love a good mantra or motto.  One of my favourites is Dory’s “Just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo. 

Traditionally they are used as team or self-motivators. They can also be used to drive accountability. We typically use KPI’s  (key performance indicators), job descriptions, project deliverables and company values to measure team and individual performance. Mantras provide something different – they encapsulate how people are expected to act and provide a simple framework to hold each other accountable.

About five years ago, I was lucky enough to be sent to the Disney Quality Service Program at DisneyWorld, Florida. What a fantastic experience! Over three days, I spent time in a classroom, and out in the parks, discovering the strategies and practices Disney has in place to deliver their outstanding guest experience.

They have two mottos, and I got to see them both in action when visiting the parks with my family. 

  1. Good is not good enough
  2. It’s not my fault, but it is my problem

Every single staff member knows precisely what these statements mean, and Disney ensures that the culture, processes and technology exist to support them to deliver it. 

Before we arrived at Disney, we signed up for their photography package. They have photographers placed all over the park, and for a reasonable price, you can have unlimited professional photos taken of your family in front of the attractions. It’s a great idea because no one is missing from the photo and you don’t have to ask strangers to do you a favour. 

So we’re in front of the iconic Disney castle having family photos taken. We would have been happy with the stock standard shot but ‘good is not good enough’ at DisneyWorld. The photographer asked to take a photo of our daughter on her own. She pulled in for a close up and asked our daughter to put her hands out in front of her pretending to hold something and to look down like she was surprised. My daughter played along, and when we downloaded the photo, Tinkerbell was in her hands. 

Surprised young girl holding an animated Disney character at Disneyland

The photographer knew the motto. She also knew that she was supported by a culture that rewarded this behaviour and by processes and technology that would help her deliver an incredible experience that we would never forget. 

“It’s not my fault, but it is my problem” has stuck with me to this day. It’s a powerful statement that encourages people to take responsibility for making a situation better, even if it was caused by something they didn’t do. It also encourages teams to help each other out. 

Another mantra I’ve seen work very well is ‘No surprises’. I was a part of a team where this meant a lot to my boss. Not only did it set clear expectations, it also demonstrated that he had our backs. If problems occurred, or mistakes made, it was expected that we’d be upfront and honest about it immediately. While there was an element of self-protection in this approach, when you think about it, someone can’t have your back if they don’t know what’s going on. I never once felt unsupported by him when something went wrong, and because of that, I was never afraid to tell him. 

How do you come up with a mantra for your team?

Together! It’s best to come up with them as a team, so you end up with something everyone believes in and agrees to follow. To help you achieve this, I’ve created a simple workshop structure in the tools section below. Once you’ve decided on something, it’s critical to make sure it fits in with the overall company’s vision and values.

Something to watch

A quote to inspire you

A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and The Infinite Game

A simple tool to help

Click here to access an agenda for a 60 to 90-minute workshop you could run with your team to come up with one or two mantras.

Written by : Melissa McCarney

Melissa knows first hand what it is like to be responsible for leading people and has experienced all the highs and lows. She wants leaders to feel supported and confident which is why she founded Better Bosses. Melissa cares about sharing what she has learnt and gets excited about creating great content and tools that help leaders bring out the best in themselves and their teams - because she knows how rewarding that is. She is a mum of two teenagers who put her people management skills to the test in entirely new ways. And when she needs to clear her head, she swims.