Author’s Note: I love talking about all-things-Harry-Potter because I believe that words can be magical. But not all magic is good. Recently, J.K. Rawling inflicted pain with her words with misinformed and damaging, transphobic commentary, leaving fans all over the world in a sad place—evaluating how her position changes their love for the stories and feeling confused about the lessons of acceptance, love, and identity found within them. Some fans have walked away from the magic of the world entirely, while others are choosing to recognize the magic as bigger than JKR. Said Daniel Radcliffe, “If you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life—then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred.”
Let’s take a cue from our fearless leader and headmaster, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore: “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”
I have an English degree, and I’m particularly drawn to the idea of words being magic. That’s why I’ve never understood the expression: “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Because they do! They can hurt us, but they can also build us up. They can anchor us in truth and set our sights far ahead, making real with the scratch of a quill on parchment our aspirations. And in our first introduction to Hogwarts, we are given just a few magical words to anchor us in one of Rowling’s core storytelling tools: the Houses of Hogwarts.
With just a few words, we have learned so much about each house and the people within them. We know who lives in each house and what they stand for. Professor McGonagall told the wide-eyed first years, “While you are here, your house will be something like your family at Hogwarts.” Much like the houses of Hogwarts, your team is a sort of family, which is why it is so valuable to create a “house motto” of your own.
At DoveLewis, our "house motto" is a suite of words making up our vision, mission, and values. You can find tons of definitions out there for each, but I’m pulling from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) here:
- Vision: “...looks forward and creates a mental image of the ideal state that the organization wishes to achieve.”
- Mission: “…a concise explanation of the organization's reason for existence.”
- Values: “…core principles that guide…the organization and its culture.”
I recently attended Connexity and managed to catch two lectures by Rick Griggs, and I was thrilled to see that he saw equal value and importance of a “house motto”. In his case, he spoke to mission and vision. What he said simply was: “Mission + Vision = Purpose”. He went a step further, noting that a clear purpose can have a direct impact on performance. He asked us to consider how can we reasonably expect people to perform well—to do their jobs and show up to work in a productive way—if they don’t really understand why they’re there.
So we’re seeing how much words on a page matter, but, like a good story, they can be so much more than that if you bring them off of the page and into your reality. But how do you do that? We put our mission, vision, and values to work in several ways. Hopefully they give you some ideas as to how you could use your "house motto" (in whatever form it takes) to build a greater sense of purpose and reap the benefits that go with it.
Hiring Practices: Consider your recruitment strategies to ensure that you are hiring people who will help you uphold your “house motto”.
Staff Reviews: Incorporate values in your staff reviews, so that they're an ever-present part of your team culture and expectations.
Coaching: No one is perfect and we can all do better tomorrow, so use your “house motto” as a coaching tool for goals and growth.
Decision Making: Consider your “house motto” as exceptional tool and roadmap for setting priorities and making tough decisions.
“House mottos”, in whatever form they take for you, can align your team, build a culture that you’re proud of, and make coming to work each day feel like family, as Profession McGonagall promised.