Corporate Mojo

June 29th, 2022

Mojo? Corporate mojo? Really, can that be a thing?

I’m not referring to the Cuban marinade or the Marvel superhero. I mean the magic “stuff,” the special sauce, the indefinable thing that exhibits as all the best. Mojo has been around as long as, well, who knows? I believe it’s a concept that has been around as long as we have. Like so many of our cultural touchstones, mojo goes back to Africa and our early ancestors. It started as an amulet or actual physical thing thought to confer great power upon the person who possessed it. Today, the word, its modern use, is an ephemeral concept, implying a magical power to those who have it. Most if not all cultures have some word or thought for the magic I’m referring to. Think of all the times it comes up in lyrics, frequently in blues and rock songs.

So what is corporate mojo? Perhaps corporate isn’t the adjective I’m looking for. Maybe organizational mojo fits better. Organizations have a culture, or a defining zeitgeist, that seems real almost to the point of tangibility. Of course, the culture of a company is intangible by definition. When a person or organization experiences great success, we say that their mojo is working. Conversely, we’ve all seen a group or an individual who’s lost his mojo. Although it’s a truly sad thing to witness, I think we’ve all experienced at some point.

A great example of mojo is when a sports team punches above its weight. Having the intangibles — coaching, a vibe, the right place and right time — really working is the only way a team can perform beyond 100 percent. When a team or organization does perform to 105 or 110 percent, it’s due to something very special. After all, we can only get to 100 percent under normal circumstances, and anything more than that is special. To me, it’s obvious, it’s because of the group’s mojo.

A part of corporate mojo can be how it addresses ESG (environmental, social, governance) issues. Corporate mojo is when an employee stops the owner when he’s walking by to offer an unsolicited opinion about how much the employee likes working there. It’s when an employee recommends employment at the company to friends and family. It can be indicated — remember, it can’t be measured — by metrics such as employee turnover or customer churn. There are numerous measurements for culture, such as employee engagement, satisfaction, alienation, etc. But there is no way to measure mojo; it’s either there and working, or it isn’t. I compare it to trying to hold smoke in your hands.

Business author Bo Burlingham likens mojo to the business equivalent of charisma. When a company has it, people know. They also want to be part of it. Mojo is one of those things in life that one takes for granted when all is fine, but you sure are aware of and miss it when it’s gone. It’s one of those things that’s just there, until it isn’t.

I wish I could be more definitive, but that’s just not the way mojo works. Maybe if mine was working better, I would be able to describe it more adroitly.

Read the article on Smart Business.

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