Using Corporate Legends to Communicate Culture

Corporate Legends - Your Culture WeaponWe often hear that communicating organizational culture is an important task. However, most people fail to provide examples on how to do that very thing! I’ve been testing different methods for sharing culture (collecting touchstones, for one), but one of my favorite ways to share our corporate beliefs and values is through the “legends” within our organization.

What is a legend?

In this sense of the word, a legend is defined as a person who took extraordinary action to achieve a goal. The guy who drove 400 miles to support a customer’s urgent request. The team that brought 40 employees on board with 48 hours’ notice. The woman who, despite all odds, successfully navigated a corporate audit with a successful conclusion. Basically, it’s the people and actions that embody the high standards that your organization stands for.

What’s the purpose?

Sure, I can tell you what our corporate values are. I can even give you some generic idea of what they mean. However, human communication has a long historical basis in storytelling and traditions. Telling you about how one of our employees really embodies the spirit of our corporate values makes it stick in your brain that much better. If a similar situation arises, you won’t be wondering how to proceed. You’ll be able to recall the legend and what someone else did to achieve success.

How to get started

Start talking with the people who have been at your company for a while. Ask questions that are designed to dig into previous accomplishments. For example:

  • Can you tell me about a time someone went above and beyond the call of duty?
  • What was the biggest success this department has ever had?
  • Has there ever been a big innovation or breakthrough at the corporate or team level? What was it?

If you’re stuck with few examples, you need to get started capturing and communicating the legends that you have. Start reaching out to managers and ask them to share with you when one of their people has a successful project or does something that demonstrates excellence. It’s your job to take those stories and use them to encourage others to embody the same characteristics.

While there might be better ways to communicate organizational culture, using internal legends is fairly straightforward, it’s easy to get started, and it has an immediate impact on the people who hear them. Do you have any legends of your own?

About the Author:
Ben Eubanks is an HR pro from Huntsville, AL who writes the upstartHR blog. When he’s not working or blogging, he’s getting ready for the next HRevolution (an HR conference on steroids) and chasing his twin toddler girls around the yard. In February 2012, he was named one of the Top 100 Human Resources Experts to Follow on Twitter. This post originally appeared on the UpstartHR blog: