Motivate Your People … Stand In Front Of Your Army

Dig deepA General who stands in front of his army will always have an army behind him.

Alexander The Great knew that. He built an empire on it. Good politicians put in a solid days work on a Habitat for Humanity house. Lousy ones get their pictures taken holding a hammer.

When it comes to motivating your people, nothing does it better than standing in the trenches with them when they really need you.

Dig In And Get Dirty

I had a production crew that was used to running automated equipment. That’s what they did. It’s what they knew, and they were a good crew. One day I put them on a job to dig a trench so we could lay some piping. It was summer. It was hot. Nobody was really excited about it, but that was the task at hand.

After about an hour, I went out to see how things were going and things were going miserably. They had barely made a dent in the ground. The supervisor I had working for me was an inexperienced leader and he sometimes had trouble getting the best work out of his crew. At the rate they were going this job was going to take them 2 or 3 days easily.

It’s nice to get away from driving a desk every once in awhile. And it was clear that some serious motivation was needed here. I took the guy who was working the hardest (the supervisor) and gave him a break. I told him to go pick up some cold bottled water for everyone. I grabbed his shovel and started digging.

This kind of stunned everyone for a minute … to have the “big boss” digging a ditch with them. The dirt started flying. I worked with them for about 40 minutes and then I bowed out and handed the project back to the supervisor with some words of encouragement for everyone.

The job was done in about 4 hours.

Know Your Priorities

Did I have other things to do other than digging holes? Yes.

Did I have more important things to do? Absolutely not.

People are a company’s greatest asset. You can’t build a great company without great people. And even though it’s often difficult to find great people, with motivation and leadership you can turn good people into a great team.

As a leader, it’s important to spend time building that great team. It’s more important than a lot of other things you have to do because a great team can and will help you get those other things done. Motivation carries through to other things; production was smoother and more efficient after that day because this crew had been in the trenches together and they had become a better team. A great team.

Stand in front of your army. They’ll be right there behind you.