I was in a coffee shop the other day and before leaving I took our cups back to the counter to save the staff having to walk over and clear the table. The bloke behind the counter called me a “legend”. Well I dunno about that, but it did get me thinking. We need more heroes. Recognition schemes, best practice awards, employees of the month and all those corporate initiatives are just not inspiring enough. Come on, let’s make some real heroes. I don’t mean coffee shop legends who don’t deserve it, I mean those people in our organisations who really are the stars. The thinkers, the doers, the motivators, the cheery souls, the ideas people, the innovators, the devotees, the unsung heroes who drive company culture and make the organisation what it is.
I’ve been reading Will Durant’s Heroes of History, in which the great American writer salutes those who, in his view, have made the greatest impact on man’s rise to greatness – from Confucius to Shakespeare, via ancient Greece and Rome. I have never read Durant before, but blimey he’s a good writer. Look at this passage from the introduction to his ‘top ten heroes’ …
“I see men standing on the edge of knowledge, and holding the light a little farther ahead. Men carving marble into forms ennobling men. Men moulding peoples into better instruments of greatness. Men making a language out of music, and music out of language. Men dreaming of finer lives, and living them. To contemplate such men, to insinuate ourselves through study into some modest discipleship to them. To watch them at their work and warm ourselves at the fire that consumes them. Too soon we extinguish the flame of our hope and our reverence. Let us change the icons and light the candles again.”
It’s thrilling stuff from a writer devoted to celebrating the human spirit and championing greatness. And in some ways, its “greatness” that we should be talking about in our world – not good practice. If I walked into an organisation for the first time – or I was thinking of joining one – I’d want to know who the heroes are and why, not what best practice looks like or how the recognition scheme works. You’ll find out much more by asking “so, who are your heroes and why?”. We comms people have the means to “light the candles” of greatness within our own office walls. So let’s not be shy of using a bit of hyperbole. Let’s find and shine the light – let’s “warm ourselves at the fire” – of those ordinary heroes who do what they do every day at work … and who make us all feel just that little bit better about ourselves.
PS – My hero growing up was Phil Collins. I even bought a drum kit because of him. How cool am I? (don’t answer that)