Alaska Airlines — without anyone asking — joined the South Sound’s newest promotional campaign by tweaking “Live Like the Mountain is Out” into #FlyLikeTheMountainIsOut.

That hashtag showed up in Alaska’s social media accounts and in-flight magazine ads. Alaska even sponsored a “like the mountain is out” mural along Tacoma’s Stadium Way.

That, says Eric Boles, exemplifies a company that knows its purpose, lives its purpose, inspires its employees to support its purpose — and then celebrates the profitable results.

Alaska Airlines, Boles says, wants to give its customers here and abroad “the feel of the Pacific Northwest. And even though it’s a big company, the employees have a level of ownership in that. They have pride in it, and they live it … And they keep revisiting that identity so they don’t lose it.”

Boles, who has worked extensively with Alaska Airlines’ leaders, knows what organizations must do to succeed.

Eric Boles

Eric Boles. Photo by Jeff Hobson.

These days, in front of hundreds of leaders of Starbucks or John Deere or IBM or Royal Bank of Canada, you can forget he’s not far removed from being just another National Football League short-timer.

Boles — a graduate of Foss High School in Tacoma — travels more than 200,000 miles a year as a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, and leadership coach to Fortune 500 companies. His recent book, Moving to Great: Unleashing Your Best In Life And Work, gives you a glimpse of how his NFL career in New York and Green Bay taught him some valuable lessons.

And if he knew then what he knows now. “I could say I did not play long in the NFL because of this injury,” he says, tracing the scar on his right knee. “The fact is I was more afraid of dropping the ball than I was passionate about catching it. Fear causes you to hesitate. And if you hesitate, you don’t ever get that play back.”

After football, Boles worked for a friend who had a janitorial service. One day, Boles went to his dad, the late Rev. Joseph Boles, founder and pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Tacoma, to ask for money.

“I said, ‘Pops, I need help. I’m struggling.’ And he says to me, ‘Money isn’t your problem, Son. I can give you money, and you’ll be right back here asking for more. Your mindset is your problem. You have to change how you think.’”

So Boles reflected on the leadership he witnessed and the advice he heard during his short time with the Green Bay Packers, from its all-star coaching staff led by names fans recognize: Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, Steve Mariucci.

He packaged those lessons, knocking on doors of real estate, accounting, and investment firms along the I-5 corridor asking to share his knowledge. None would listen.

Charlie Davis, then a center leader (now CEO) of the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties and a teammate in weekly pickup basketball games, asked Boles to share his message with the YMCA staff. It resonated. One admirer passed word to a Starbucks executive. And now thousands of people a year around the world listen to Boles’ message.

Any advice for South Sound business owners? “A lot of companies get distracted by looking at the scoreboard, the bottom line, making money,” Boles says. “But the scoreboard isn’t a leading indicator; it’s a lagging indicator. You still need to know what the score is … but you need to know your purpose, stay true to it, help your team understand it, give them the ownership to feel a part of it.”