The Motivated Locomotive

Once upon a time there was a train full of toys, stuffed animals, dolls and balls. “Wouldn’t it be great,” said the Clown, CEO, “if all the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain had our goodies, toys and treats any time they wanted?” Everyone agreed. So they roughed out a Vision statement which said “Develop, deploy, and manage a diverse set of strategic logistics tools to serve our customers, improving overall satisfaction among our diverse customer profiles.” It sounded very business-like. Everyone knew what it meant, right? “Take a variety of toys and sweets over the mountain that all the kids will like.” Also, they decided that a good mission statement would be “seamlessly operationalize market-driven global opportunities,” which pretty much meant “get in the black asap” and they got to work.

The CEO pointed out that the most likely market was over the mountain, and besides, there was a railroad right over the top already, so the company loaded a train with anything they had in stock and set off to make their mission a reality. Which was great, until their engine broke down a mile out of town. Nobody had bothered to see if it was in working condition. So the CEO started doing some quick headhunting by tapping his network.

“hey, I need a loco-motivated guy here who can get us over this mountain,” he said. He tried to lure away people from some major logistics companies, one that specialized in heavy brown and yellow packages, and another that specialized in speedy delivery of red and blue envelopes, but nobody he went to business school with was interested in working for a startup, for half their current pay and dubiously valuable stock options.

Finally he found a kid who was just out of college. Let’s just say she was a little green behind the ears and hadn’t quite stopped watching videos with talking trains who rolled their eyeballs around and bantered with their cabooses and obeyed a clown in a top hat. She was what we’d call an “idealist” and a “go-getter” and she’d never had an opportunity before. She was hyper-motivated; even loco-motivated because she loved the vision. Her motto was “I think I can” and with a lot of effort she made it over that first mountain and delivered the goods.

The end, but not quite. Using some lingo she thought the CEO would understand, the Little Engine Who Did, said “that mountain is a silly hilly hill, homey don’t play that,” and to the board of directors she said “our methodology is unsustainable, has anyone even bothered to think about what our values are?”

Everyone said “What do you mean? We have a vision, a mission, a motivated general manager, and we’re in the black. Keep doing it!”

The Little Engine Who Did, and was happy to keep doing it, too, if only it wasn’t such a damn uphill struggle half the time, said, “We have vision: we know how we want to change the world for the better; we make children happy. We have a mission: to deliver toys to the town on the other side of the mountain. But I’m not motivated to keep making that climb, over and over, when I think there might be better ways to deliver that fit who we are more appropriately. Did anyone think about the tracks?”

“The tracks were just there,” said the giraffe, who spoke up because he always had an easy time getting a bird’s eye view, “and based on a cursory inspection they do not appear to be broken.”

“It’s not a matter of being broken or not. It works, but I’m wearing out quickly. I don’t get to see my children much, and when I do, I’m so exhausted I fall asleep before we’re done eating our KFC. I really want to do what we do, but I don’t have a high value for our traditional methodology.”

“How else could we do it?” said the CEO.

“The first two options I see are blasting a tunnel through the mountain or building a track that goes around it. Then we could consider getting a ship and sailing around to the east, or flying some of the goods in by air. Some of those methods will cost more, some will take longer, but just getting it done isn’t going to work. We need to look at other values besides just doing it this way. In this case, there isn’t a right way to do it, just different ones.”
So they wrote it out:

Vision, or how the world will change if we succeed: Kids will play and grow!

Mission: What we are doing now: Getting toys and fruit to children.

 Values: How we do it and why we do it the way we do it. Where the train tracks go and why they go there.

“We have not thought about these very carefully before,” said the CEO, who felt his suspenders had broken and his pants were falling down, because they were. Hee, hee.

And that is when they called a coach to help them talk it over. The Beginning.

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Success and Your Values

Last week a client who is a perfectionist (which is not a dirty word) told me he’s very success driven. With a perfectionist that almost goes without saying. However, it did get me thinking.

What is success, really? Is it being on deadline? Is it making lots of money? Is it having time to spend with your family, taking them on a fancy vacation? Is it producing the highest quality or serving your customer better?

Here’s the thing most people don’t understand about success. Success in and of itself is not a value. Sure, you can value being successful, but look a layer deeper and you’ll see it:

Success is a result of values well lived.

What doesn’t work for most people, certainly not for very long, is a pursuit of success driven by a value you don’t truly hold.

Does that mean you always get what you want? Or that you can’t? Or is it just that, as the Stones said, “if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need”?

I don’t completely know. It gets philosophical pretty quickly. People have wrestled with this for three or four thousand years at least.

When shopping for a gift for my wealthy grandparents we used to say “what do you get someone who already has everything they need?”

The Preacher / King said “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good … nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities…”

Lao Tzu remarked “As for holding to fullness, far better were it to stop in time! … Fill your house with gold and jade, and it can no longer be guarded. Here is the Way (Tao) of Heaven: When you have done your work, retire!” I should note I think this meaning of the word “retire” is that of taking your rest in the evening. It’s frightfully imbalanced to think that we’ll rest once we’ve quit our job for a life of leisure. I think we function best in rhythms of work and rest, rather than one long workaholic push followed by a total letdown. That letdown often kills people, the obvious and ironic tragedy being that they never enjoyed life during those working years.

What are your core values? Many people can’t say. Some think they can, but they’ve just skimmed the topic once or twice without putting in the hard work of articulation to really get down to their bottom line.

When I was on an installation crew that primarily did customer service, I ended up getting screamed at and cussed by a Manhattan real estate mogul who was a fairly frequent customer. The owner of our company called him and said “We aren’t selling to you anymore. We don’t treat our people that way.”

Living your values well means you might fire a customer on principle. You may make less money for a time, but you’ll be a success. Even a hero!

 

Like this post? Then you might enjoy my book The Art of Motivational Listening. Check it out in my Bookstore in the sidebar. Thanks! –Adam

Can I coach my employee or not?

The question comes up all the time: If I can’t have an agenda for someone I’m coaching, can I ever truly coach people inside my organization, or not?

If the individual’s values are in alignment with the organization’s values and goals, then yes, a supervisor can coach anyone on issues related to strategies and tactics. The organization’s preferred strategies or tactics may not work for that person. Scrap them on an individual level if you’re both headed the same place with the same values. Coaching builds leaders internally and if you build leaders through their tasks, they’ll be grateful for the opportunity.

If the coaching goal revolves around issues where the individual and the organization are not aligned in terms of values or goals, then a third-party coach is better. The person who needs coached may find they also need to move on. Better to figure it out for themselves and make a shift to an organization where their values line up, than to hang on way too long, get burned out, frustrated, sabotage with complaining or other bad attitudes, and end up needing to be fired!

Know the difference between values and strategies/tactics, and you’ll know whom you can coach.