Team Mottos are a MUST on the Field (and How to Make Them)

Mar 11, 2020 | 2 comments

Mottos are a big part of our lives. My husband started the idea of having family mottos when our girls were very small, and we’ve incorporated these mottos into the fabric of our family. 

Our mottos are fun phrases and silly words that help us remember important things for how we interact with each other, with the world around us and with the God who created us. 

From the decisions we make, to our attitudes about life, mottos are how we communicate on common ground with common goals and common starting points. One motto building on another, our girls, now teenagers, can quote them to you quickly and passionately. 

We use them in parenting, guiding, teaching and mentoring our girls to adulthood. Our mottos are phrases that build unity, teach solid principles and provide a strong foundation for all areas of life.

What is a motto? says “an expression of the guiding principle of a person, organization; a sentence, phrase, or word expressing the spirit or purpose of a person, organization.”

What is a family motto?

A phrase or slogan that is a guiding principle for your family or a sentence that expresses the purpose or spirit of your family. 

Yet, if we take the concept of mottos and apply it to more than just families, how could that impact our life and work overseas?

What if we created mottos for our teams and organizations?

What if we used mottos as a creative tool to express the guiding principles of our work, our reasons for being overseas, or our purpose and drive to stay?

How can we apply the idea of mottos in a way that enhances communication, provides a strong foundation and builds unity in our teams?

What if we had some fun with those team documents and agreements that you have hiding in a folder {you know you do this} on your desktop and changed them up with things you’ll actually remember? Things that your team will enjoy creating, keep talking about and use in everyday team life?

What if, regardless of whether your team jumps on board with the idea or not, you take some time to think through your situation and apply some team mottos that might help you in your journey overseas?

Just to explain what this could look like, I’ll use our family mottos as examples.

1} Life is not fair.

This has been a life motto for my husband for as long as I’ve known him. Life is not going to be fair. Team life is not going to be fair. What one family needs or does may or may not work for your family. What a leader says or does in one situation might be different from how things are handled in another situation. Team life is complicated and that’s multiplied by culture shock, stress, transition and unexpected events. If we can embrace this motto ahead of time, bumps in the road won’t seem so shocking or painful. Team life {or overseas life} isn’t going to be fair. With that said, just as we tell our girls, we should always be on the lookout for ways we can bring health to situations that might be unfair or unjust. Some things will stay unfair. Some things can be made better with a little love, honesty, grace and trust.

2} Don’t doubt your “dad.”

You’ll have to hop over to our blog to read about this one. In the context of team, you could change the word to team member or coworker. The main point of this motto is to expect the best in your team. Assume good motives, good thoughts and good intentions. We all know that being in doubt about your team is not a great place to be. It’s not sustainable long term to walk on eggshells or have a cloud of uncertainty in the room. How can you resolve the doubt and mistrust within your team? What can you do as a leader to build trust between you and those you serve? If doubt is there, how can it be overcome? A team working together who assumes the best can be dynamic, powerful and effective. 

3} Never leave a mushroom behind… there’s always a fungi {fun guy} in the group!

As a family, we love to include everyone, be kind, make sure that no one is left behind and everyone is engaged in the process. We strive to be team players, group thinkers, and friend makers. This is critical on a team overseas. Always be watching out for those on your team. How can practices be put in place to make sure no one is left out or feeling isolated? How can your team create community? How can you be a part of including, helping, sharing and building up your team members?

4} Who, what, when, where and why. These are the pieces of life’s pie. 

In our lives overseas, we must be aware of our surroundings, be prepared for what the day might bring and make sure we’ve thought through the variables as best we can. Go bags planned and packed. Meeting places marked out. Procedures and policies made clear. Taking time as a team for looking back to learn and grow while looking forward, so the team can move in step as one. Vision planning, scheduling, ministry goals and the next holiday dinner all take asking good questions, thinking things through and covering all the bases. If as a team, we are not good at this motto, we will frustrate each other, fail often and not be as effective as we could be.

5} Always fill a water bottle. 

You’ve been there. It’s a hot, overseas life day and no one refilled the water bottle in the fridge. No cold water for you. Annoying, right? This motto is all about service. Serving one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, working together, putting others before ourselves, treating each other the way we want to be treated… if there is an empty water bottle in the fridge, fill it up (preferably with filtered water!). If you see a way you can help or serve a team member, do it. Look for opportunities to uplift and encourage. Build this into the fabric of your team from day one. If we cannot peacefully, humbly and genuinely serve each other, how can we serve the people around us? How can we show God’s love if we aren’t modeling it in our relationships with each other?

Our mottos continue with “There is always a Nellie Olsen in the group” and “What do you do if the grass seems greener over there? Water your grass.”

Both of those will preach when it comes to living in team overseas. There truly will always be someone in the group who is negative or hurtful. What does your team do in that situation? The grass will seem greener on another team or in another country. What can you do to make your situation, right where you are, better? How can you water the grass?

Creating mottos that are fun and memorable takes a little ingenuity, a willingness to be real, a deep look at what your team specifics are and what goals you have moving forward. 

Creating these mottos takes time.

A few tips:

1} Have a team meeting or discussion about things that are important to your team. Plan this discussion as its own agenda item. Make it a priority and give it the time it needs. The success of your team might rest on this discussion. Oh, and have the discussion at a good meeting place with great snacks and fabulous coffee. That always helps!

2} Use words, phrases and sayings that you are already using in your team or organization. Make the phrases things that would be natural to your team members. Obviously, looking at our mottos, you can get a sense of my husband’s humor, his personality and our priorities in raising our girls. In the same way, your team mottos should reflect your team’s humor, passion, personality, purposes and goals.

3} Once the mottos are written, use them. Use them in every team meeting. Laugh about them during activities. Joke about them using memes in your facebook group. Pray about them as a team. Keep these mottos, these values, these phrases at the forefront of your team interactions. If using them regularly isn’t in the plan, you might as well not write them.

4} Remember, team mottos won’t solve all your team problems. Sorry. You’ll still have to remind people to help out, ask people to be involved, push to see goals met and say “Life is not fair.” BUT writing team mottos that are used in the daily life of your team will lay a powerful foundation for an effective overseas community that knows how to work and play together.

5} Have fun with this! 

Afterall, team mottos shouldn’t hide in a folder on your desktop. 

Have you ever used fun mottos in your team overseas?

If you could dream up some mottos for your team, what would they be?

Photo by Angga Indratama on Unsplash

Jenilee Goodwin

Wife, boarding school mom, runner, writer, lover of books and a huge coffee fan




  1. Bonita

    Just renamed our group chat for my team to “Prayer and Care”.
    Thanks for the idea.

  2. Jenn

    We have one based on a store we saw in our country and a beer commercial…. Dili-Dili. The store is named Damn I Love Indonesia. It’s principle for us that while there are many things to be frustrated about we can always choose to find things we are grateful for in Indo. We’re with a young org so there is more room for a motto like that.

    Our second is, “there is always a way.” Indonesians are insanely creative people when it comes to problem solving. So much of overseas life is problem solving so believing it can be solved before it is solved seems to be very essential. We’ve yet to see a problem get solved.


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