For me, white water rafting is a lot like employee engagement. As an avid white water rafter (that’s me in the photo above wearing the black baseball cap), and experienced internal/corporate communicator, I find many similarities in that both require individual contribution as well as commitment, cooperation and trust to get the job done. It could be invested employees implementing organizational strategy or a group of rafters working together to get their boat through the rapids to the end of the river.

Blogger Torben Rick does a great job of explaining the importance of organizational alignment to achieving top company performance, by comparing successful company strategy execution to winning a boat race.

To achieve success, the rowers must stroke at the same pace with the blades of every oar pulling at the same depth in the water. They all know the overall game plan [and their individual role] for success and they are ready to respond to the orders of the coxswain (who keeps the boat on course through changing conditions) as individuals and as a cohesive unit.

Torben adds that as with the rowing team, “an aligned organisation gets things done faster with less effort and better results, and is more agile and responsive to changing business conditions.”

Creating a winning team

paddles upThankfully, interest in company culture and employee engagement seems to be at the top of the agenda for the majority of businesses today. It’s gratifying to see how the strategic importance of employee participation in, and commitment to, a company’s mission and values is now being recognized as a key differentiator for success in the ever constant race to win in the marketplace.

It’s no longer just about companies paying lip service to advertised client promises – but ensuring that everyone at all levels is walking the talk. That takes helping employees align with and internalize the company mission so they can transform the organization’s guiding principles into the behaviors needed to deliver on the brand’s service promise.

It’s no longer about companies paying lip service to advertised promises – but ensuring that everyone at all levels is walking the talk.

And “walking the talk” is what I intend to cover in this blog. I’ll discuss “the definition and activation of corporate character,” adeptly explained in the Arthur W. Paige report Building Belief: A New Model for Activating Corporate Character & Authentic Advocacy and what it takes to ensure employee “advocacy at scale,” as the report notes. It can sometimes be like herding cats, but I’m here to say that I’ve seen it work – and it’s a glorious thing to behold.

The proof

On a recent trip to Montana’s Glacier National Park, my husband and I were lucky enough to experience one rafting company’s dedication to company alignment to its mission of safety and fun on the river for customers. We reserved a half-day white water excursion with the Glacier Raft Company. Their website proudly noted their 39 years worth of experience and exemplary safety record as well as high quality regulation rafts and experienced safety-trained staff.

Every staff person we met understood his/her role in ensuring a fun and safe adventure, and promptly told us what it was: “I’m here to ensure your gear fits correctly and comfortably,” said our outfitter for the trip. Once our group was properly equipped, we were escorted to a 20-minute session on proper rowing and safety. Afterwards at the launch site, we were greeted by the river guide leading the trip. He discussed what we could expect from him while on the river – and what was expected of us (compliance with rules, etc.) as rafters.

The result was a safe and exciting trip through the Upper Middle Fork of the Flathead River, rapids and all. Excursion videos on the company site could have easily been depicting our group.

There’s rarely been a dull moment during my 20-year journey as an internal and executive communicator. The work has taught me a lot, especially that there’s always more to learn. Please join me as I continue my road trip. Don’t forget to let me know about your own road blocks and accomplishments.