Rhetoric as Motivation

Working at Common Purpose this summer was an insightful experience which taught me a lot of lessons and gave me skills that can be easily transferred to other jobs. At the same time, working for the organization was a unique experience where I was taught that how the organization’s leaders communicated with our team was contingent upon how busy we were.


For eight weeks over the summer, my team, Common Purpose Student Experiences (CPSE) was delivering programs for over 800 students. CPSE’s summers are always busy which causes many employees to stress out, especially as all of the programs are outside of England. With this in mind, every few weeks, the CEO of the entire trust as well as the CEO of our team would send motivational messages in our group chat. The messages were videos which were meant to encourage our team during a time in which many of us were staying after work hours to ensure that programs were a success. The response to the video messages was always positive, with some of my colleagues pointing out that the messages were well-timed when they were feeling burned out.


In the messages, the leaders of the team articulated the purpose of our organization and used program feedback to draw on the importance of the work our team does. These messages reminded me of our discussion about rhetoric and charisma in Theories and Models. We watched a video in which a leader was trying to motivate their followers to do work that may have seemed thankless or too stressful. By pulling on the evidence of program participants showing appreciation for our hard work, both leaders were able to show our team that our end goal was being reached.


Although leader charisma and rhetoric can be used as a motivational tool for followers who are struggling to find the meaning in their work, they cannot make up for large problems within an organizational structure. If a work environment does not foster an environment where people feel like they can be productive and work, no amount of motivation can account for faults in the culture of a group or environment.