Posters Make Good Wallpaper but Not Leaders


Posters Make Good Wallpaper but Not Leaders

Whether the “Old School” motivational poster or the online posts with inspirational sayings that are recycled, forwarded, often misquoted or usually inapplicable, VIM Executive Coaching has pretty much seen them all. We might add, before the posters there were all types of motivational self-help books, VCR tapes and once upon a time, self help CD’s and 8-track cassettes. When we combined them all, they usually stacked up to disappointment.

Nice for You, Not for Me

To be honest, we have always felt the motivational posters and messages were more important to those posting them (or profiting by them) than for general audiences. Indeed, if we see enough of those motivational messages we tend to glaze over. Most say the same thing. They are unremarkable in their sentiments and are forgotten within the next mouse click or scroll down.

It is not difficult to write a motivational poster or online post. In fact, there are online services that can do it for us. It further “cheapens” the product and it leads us to an important executive leadership point: you are your own poster.

The process of executive leadership is an internal journey, it is a journey borne of authenticity – getting to the core of our selves. It is a journey of personal work and reflection and a path of mindfulness. No one can take that journey for us and no one can fully define what the personal experience is that will lead us to finding our own styles, leadership techniques and purposes in our organizations.

As a two-second exercise, we might offer that over the course of a week, virtually every time we log onto a career website, or a site such as LinkedIn, we invariably see a poster. We would challenge you to remember (and quote) any posters or even one poster you may have seen from a week ago. It is rather difficult, no?

It is because online or even the old paper posters require us to react and not respond. Presumably, those posting are usually doing so for some kind of attention or reaction. As an example, let’s imagine a motivational poster (online or paper) of a sunset with the quote (this is an actual online quote): “Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens, every day can end beautifully.”

As we are expected to react rather than respond, how would we react to that? Keeping it strictly to work (not our personal lives), suppose we had an absolutely miserable day – perhaps learning we have been laid off, or our company is about to be acquired or that there was a tragic workplace accident? Would we have to force our thinking into a box that demands that despite the bad news or incident that “this day ended beautifully?” Or worse, if we are feeling disheartened because something tragic happened in the workplace, that our feelings of sadness, frustration or helplessness, are our fault? After all, we did not react in the way the quote told us how to react.

Write Your Own Poster

Far better in our view to respond to situations as they occur. Not every sunset will be beautiful and not every day will be without its deep challenges. If we learn to be authentic, to be kind, compassionate and ourselves – our best selves, whatever confronts us can be dealt with in a heartfelt and truthful manner.

VIM Executive Coaching encourages clients to write their own posters and to take those sentiments and responses into our hearts. We know that not every day will end with a beautiful sunset but we can certainly learn and respond to the challenges that present themselves.

We don’t have to remember those motivational quotes. What we need to remember is to be our best selves.

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Bruce Wolk