Keep internal messages internal

A recent trip to the bank’s drive-through was pretty revealing.

Now, this is not the slowest drive-through window I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been through more than my share), but I usually need a haircut by the time I get done. So, I had plenty of time to sit and brood. In doing so, my eyes happened upon a hand-lettered sign that was obviously meant for internal consumption only, peering at me from the window.

The sign was touting the virtues and benefits of a home improvement loan—not the benefits to the recipient, but to the bank. It seems the bank has an incentive program for the cashiers and anyone who “sells” a home equity loan gets a nice, fat bonus. The heading on the sign says “This month’s #1 priority—home-equity loans!”

It’s sort of like the signs that you see affixed to cash registers at some retail establishments, reminding the staff member to “Smile” and “Make eye contact” or to “Ask each customer if they (sic) need anything else.” These signs make me want to smile, because they suggest a rather basic approach to training and not a whole lot of confidence in the staff.

Plastering your educational objectives all over your school district’s buildings is a little like this. It’s fine to have an internal mission statement that says, for example, “Our objective is to help each student be a success, every single day” and to refer to that statement as decisions are being made.

But, remember that as you are getting your statement framed and suitable for posting that doing so takes an internal pledge and seeks to make it a marketing tool – which it isn’t. It’s little more than a promise to do your best, which doesn’t differentiate you from any other school district.

And that reminds me of the question I asked a former client in the health care field who proudly showed me the etched glass in their new hospital lobby that had the hospital’s slogan, which was (I’m not kidding) “We care.”

My question to her: Isn’t that what a hospital is supposed to do?