When You Can't Find Perfect People
few minutes before I was scheduled to begin a
keynote presentation, an
attendee who introduced himself as Mr. Lansdorf asked me, "What can I do
about working for a corporation full of stiffs?" In spite of the fact that
the company paid quite well, Mr. Lansdorf's people never performed the way he hoped they would when he hired them.
His co-workers weren't much better. As for his
boss, "He couldn't care less about my problems. He'd like to be able to forget about my whole department."
"So what exactly do you want?" I asked.
"What I'd like is for people to do the job they're supposed to do, the way they're supposed to do it."
"Which means?" I asked.
"To do something beyond the minimum: to go the extra mile for
Everybody expects something for nothing."
"Hey, I earn my money," Mr. Lansdorf insisted. "I go way beyond
"And it gets you?"
"Nothing, that's the point. It gets me nothing."
"So how long are you going to keep doing that?"
"Not much longer, believe me."
"But you want others to go beyond the minimum: without putting
something it in for them? Aren't you the one who's expecting for something
"I want people to do what they should do."
"So what we're talking about is morality and ethics? What people should do?"
"Exactly." he said.
"So as a
manager, your ability to manage is based upon people
doing what they should do? Otherwise you can't get the results you
"No of course not. Nobody does what they should. At least nobody
in my company."
"So wouldn't you be better off trying to find a way to get the results you need
with the people you've got rather
than the perfect people who do what they should and apparently don't exist. Or at least don't
exist in your company?"
Obviously. Bingo! I thought. I felt like Socrates:
elucidating my point with just the right questions. Of course later someone
reminded me of the famous report given by a third-grader: "Socrates was a
Greek philosopher who went around giving people advice. They poisoned him."
So much for the Socratic method.
If it was so obvious why had he been asking his people to go the extra mile
when there was really no advantage in it for them? Even if they went along
in order to stay on his good side, how enthusiastic would they be?
You Can't Sell an Empty Glass
Why do we all so frequently
act like Mr. Lansdorf? Trish asks
her boss to go out of his way for her and help get her promoted. There's nothing in it for him. If anything, losing Trish will make his job
more difficult. He's a nice guy.
He may help her. But wouldn't he go along far more willingly if he was doing it to gain another ally
in management; or to earn points with the company for having developed
another manager; or to free up Trish's spot so he can reward and keep from losing that great new talent he's been grooming on the rung below hers.
It's obvious: you can't
sell anybody anything if you don't offer them some benefit. You can't motivate anyone by offering them an empty glass. It's obvious: and we all forget it. Constantly. We hope ethics or morality
or religion or character will make up for the lack of incentive.
Does your idea of character tell you that when there's little or nothing in it for you that you should devote yourself
unstintingly to providing for someone else's welfare? If so please call, I've got a job for you.
If I believe that playing by your rules,
systems, procedures, traditions or morality guarantees that I'm going to lose, do not expect me to play by them.
Bosses who tell you they can't hire good
workers are usually telling you they're poor bosses. They're telling you they aren't
providing sufficient incentive for people to meet their standards. Or if
they have provided the incentive, they havenít provided sufficient nuts and
bolts, real-world training and direction, leaving their people wanting to
climb the mountain but without a clear enough trail to follow.
To mix metaphors a bit, they arenít
adding enough water to the glass.
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