Monday, February 7, 2011

A Satisfied Need Doesn’t Motivate

“We feel the thing we ought to be beating beneath the thing we are.”
—Phillips Brooks, American minister

When I talk about my record-breaking office, I’m often asked, “Where did you find those great salespeople? Did you raid the competition and get their top people? How did you get people who were all cut from the same piece of cloth?” Well, I didn’t and they weren’t. My salespeople came from every walk of life. That was a great office, and I could tell you some very interesting stories about an entire cross section of people. But I’m just going to pick one. Let’s call him Charlie. (That’s not his real name.)

Charlie was the most frustrating human being I ever had working for me. If you’re a manager, you probably know somebody just like him. I saw potential in him that he refused to see himself because of his self-imposed barriers. This guy made $4,000 a month, month in and month out. I don’t even know how he got by on that amount. It was absolutely eerie how close he could get to $4,000 each and every month. It was like an obsession. If he got close to $4,000 and there were just a few days left in the month, he was a basket case. He was actually petrified that someone would walk in and say, “I’m buying from you today,” and that would put him over the $4,000.

One month I said to myself, “Charlie doesn’t know this yet, but he’s going to go through that barrier, or I’m going to die trying to get him over it.” I did everything but move in with him. For a solid month, he could not move in that office without my being right behind him. When he went to the men’s room, I stood guard at the door! I Big Brothered that son of a gun to death!

That month he made close to $8,000—he doubled his productivity—all thanks to my Big Brothering. But mark the sequel: The next month, without me behind him, Charlie made—you guessed it—nothing. Zero. And the next month? $2,000—he had no problem with that.

So I brought him in to my office and sat him down. He was one of those people who have “poor me” written all over their faces and in their voices. I bet with that voice of his he could have cracked a Styrofoam cup. Anyway, after I had pointed out what he was doing, he said, “But Danny, you don’t understand.”

“What don’t I understand?” I asked him.

“Well, I’ve never had any more money in the bank than what my father had in the bank when I was growing up.” As ridiculous as that sounds, that was his excuse. He made absolutely sure that he based his earnings solely on what his father used to have when he was young. He controlled his income. If he’d been on salary, he’d have probably controlled it with his expenses. This, then, was his reason for keeping his self-imposed barrier in what could have been a permanent position.

I looked at him and I said, “So that’s the role model you’re setting for your own children, is it? So someday they’ll be able to sit in an office like this and then tell their manager, ‘We’ve never had any more money in the bank than our father had in the bank. It’s always been that way in our family.’”

Well, Charlie came up out of that chair in a hurry and headed for my desk, as if I’d not only stepped on sacred ground, I had stomped on it. Or that’s the way it seemed. I thought “Cox, here’s one you’ve pushed too far. He’s going to be across that desk doing horrible things to your face in just a moment.” There he stood at my desk, inches
away from me, shaking. But instead of hitting me, he said, “My gosh! That’s what I’m doing, isn’t it?”

“Sure you are,” I said, relieved.

Then he said, “I’m setting a daily example for my kids to see, one of no further growth from their father. My own kids think this is as good as I’ll ever be at what I’ve chosen to do with my life. Well, why should they feel any different? I’ve never given them any reason to.”

He paused a moment, then went on, “They deserve a better example than the one they see at the end of a day when I come home from work, disgusted with myself, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and telling them they’d better get better at what they’re doing. From this point forward,” Charlie said, “I refuse to continue to repeat what I know doesn’t work.”

That’s an important lesson to learn. When we get into a bad habit, we often don’t see what’s happening to us and what’s not working. But we can defeat that by taking a good, long look at ourselves, and then make changes to break the bad habits—starting today! And that’s exactly what Charlie did.

Immediate Action: Ask yourself, “What am I doing now that isn’t working? How could I change it?” How do you know whether what you’re doing works or not? We probably already know instinctively; the question is, when do we decide that the price we’re paying now is too high?

Charlie walked out of my office that day a changed man. Why? Because he had something to prove. The pain of realizing he was affecting his children’s life for the worse was too much—he decided it was time to establish a new routine. He vowed to inspire his family. Whom are you inspiring by the way you do your job? (And notice I said “inspiring,” not “impressing.”)

Point to Ponder Before You Go On: For “things” to change for the better, you’ve got to change for the better...just as Charlie did.