Do you want to get the best out of your employees? There’s a story that came from Zig Ziglar about a guy named Dave and another named Jim that might shed some light on the best way to motivate others.
A Crew Manager and a President
In the 1950s, an incident took place on a sweltering summer afternoon alongside a railroad track where a crew of workers was doing some repair work. A train came chugging down the track and pulled off on a side rail. A window opened and a voice—a man’s voice—shouted out, “Dave! Dave Anderson, is that you?”
It was; in fact, Dave Anderson was in charge of the crew. “Yeah, Jim, it’s me,” he shouted back.
The man on the train, Jim Murphy, yelled out, “Well, come on over here and let’s chat a while.”
So Dave stopped what he’d been doing and joined Jim Murphy in his private air-conditioned railroad car for almost an hour, no doubt happy to get out of the broiling sun. When the conversation ended, he made his way back to his crew working on the track. The flabbergasted crew stared at him in utter shock and said something to the effect of, “That was Jim Murphy, the president of the railroad.”
“Yup, it sure was,” Anderson said.
They all gathered around and excitedly wanted to know how Dave knew Jim Murphy, the president of the railroad, for God sakes, to say nothing about he got to be such good buddies with the man and on a first-name basis to boot!
Dave explained: “Well, it’s quite simple—when I started with the railroad over 20 years ago, Jim Murphy started at the same time; we’ve been pals ever since.”
Now the crew is astonished as much as they are confused. They want to know how it is that Dave and Jim Murphy started working for the railroad at the same time and Murphy rose to such dizzying heights while old Dave is still working on the track in the hot sun. How in God’s name did that happen?
Dave looked wistfully up into the sky and said, “A little over 20 years ago Jim Murphy went to work for the railroad; I went to work for $1.75 an hour.”
A Lack of Vision
I remember having a conversation with a manager at one point in my career. I was struggling. I had tasks to do, but didn’t understand the purpose; I didn’t understand the vision. I didn’t know what we were trying to accomplish.
So during a meeting with him I took a chance. I explained to him that I had a wide variety of skills I could employ in problem solving, execution, decision making, and elsewhere. I wanted to do this job right, but I would need to better understand where we were trying to go and what we wanted to accomplish. His position was simple: it wasn’t important to know why; I should just do what I was being paid to do.
It was definitely not the motivational speech of the year.
A Shared Vision
If you want to get the best out of your employees and really improve your business, share your vision. The more they understand where you are going and what you are trying to accomplish, the more brainpower you will have working to find solutions.
If you simply have them do tasks, the only room for improvement is what you see. Yet these are the ones with boots on the ground who know exactly what’s going on. If you share a vision, they will understand what you are trying to accomplish and can adjust accordingly to maximize their time instead of just doing rote tasks mindlessly.
Getting Your Money’s Worth
To my manager, since my company was paying me, it wasn’t for me to understand; it was simply for me to do. To me, since my company was paying me, I knew that understanding the vision could help me maximize my efforts to give my employer the biggest bang for the buck.
Do you want people that only have loyalty to what you pay them and the gear you get them, or do you want people that are fully invested in the success of your company? If you want people to jump in fully, share your vision. You can have them come to work to get paid or you can have them come to work empowered to help you succeed.