"The first responsibility of a leader is to define a vision... the last to say thank you."
~ Peter Drucker
When I was about 14, my father came home from work one night, smiling from ear to ear.
I was the eldest of five kids. All seven of us (plus two dogs) lived in a small 3-bedroom post-war tract house just south of San Francisco.
My father was a delivery driver for a large airfreight company (similar to what would be a modern UPS or FedEx driver) who worked 10-hour days to support his family. Mom stayed at home with the kids.
Although he worked long hours, he always somehow managed to be home each night for dinner at 6:30... like clock-work.
Around the dinner table each night, we each took turns reporting to each other about our day... youngest to oldest... dad always going last.
Dad sat at the head of the table that evening smiling like "the cat that ate the canary".
Each of us were left wondering what was the news that he had to report when it was his turn.
When his turn finally came, he proudly told us...
"Today, before I left for my route, our local office received a phone call from the president of our company... he asked that everyone at the office to be present including the drivers... we were all thinking that he was ready to give us some really bad news... like we were going out of business... but that’s not what happened...
As it turns out... our company president... in front of the entire office... was calling to congratulate me!!...
It seems that one of my smaller clients... turns out to be a huge national account... they just happen to run a smaller office in San Francisco...
When they were having some problems with their overnight shipping, I suggested to the local shipping manager that they use one of our expedited services... the local shipping manager liked the idea so much that he presented the idea to his corporate office. The customer has now signed a multi-million dollar contract with our company to do all their overnight shipping...
So our company president called to personally thank me for a job well done... in front of everyone... !!"
My father could hardly contain himself...
My mother... the one who had to make our budget stretch each week, asked whether or not this "congratulations" came with any type of monetary reward... being that the company just landed a new multi-million dollar account...
Dad replied, "No... but he did ask me if I ever thought about transferring to the sales side of the business instead of driving".
As it turned out, my father never pursued the idea of becoming a sales person and ended up staying put as a truck driver (for another 25 years).
I saw my father recently, and we starting talking about forks in the road (he had read last week’s blog)... he recalled fondly of that day that he was given those accolades and thought about the "what-ifs".
What really struck me... was that he still remembered that day (and so did I... knowing it was truly one of the happiest moments of his life).
It was just a short 3-minute phone call... and 38 years later we both still remembered it.
The experience also reminded me just how much a few words of praise from a respected leader could have a lasting effect on someone’s life.
My father (as well as the millions of people before and after him) go to their job each day and work hard. They trade their time and talents for a paycheck at the end of the week. Most people work because they need to... not because they want to...
It is indeed a quid pro quo arrangement... you do something (work)... we’ll do something (pay you).
However... this is strictly the minimum level of performance... and doesn’t necessarily consider the efforts that actually exceed all expectations...
Motivating employees, students, athletes, and children to always give their best efforts isn’t simply a system of rewards (quid pro quo)... whether it is money, trophies, grades, and/or other types of incentives... sometimes the greatest motivation comes from unexpected places...
Sometimes it’s perhaps a kind word of encouragement, better training or tools to make the job easier, autonomy (trust), recognition or accolades... mostly I have found that people tend to work their hardest and best when they feel as though their direct actions make a difference in the organization.
I have found that people tend to work a bit harder when they believe that they are working together as a part of a team. Teamwork provides camaraderie, competition, and sense of accomplishing something bigger than one person can possible achieve on their own.
Together they can share their experiences both of winning and losing (lesson learning).
Great leaders have a knack for selecting, training and uniting members of the team; preparing them and focusing their efforts toward overcoming whatever adversity lies in front of them.
The members of the team need to believe that their individual efforts are instrumental to the overall success of team. They can’t be on auto-pilot when their teammates are expending the extra effort.
Leaders are able to effectively communicate the end goals, define the obstacles in front of them, and with the help of the team members, create a winning plan of action.
Proper preparation makes for successful execution.
Everyone understands their job and how properly performing their piece contributes to the success of the team.
Team leaders celebrate victories, recognizing and rewarding those individual performers who displayed special efforts. They also take time to review to help understand what made their efforts successful and what lessons can be learned going forward into the future.
Great leaders are nothing without a great team behind them...
I’m not really sure if the president of the freight company that my father worked for was a great leader or not. I only know that on that particular day, he possibly forever changed the life of one of his employees...
I can’t help but wonder if my father worked just a little bit harder in the days that followed his phone call experience.
I certainly I know I would have.
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse, where our great team is standing by ready to help your great team...
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