I received a great leadership tip several years ago, and it’s as relevant today as ever before. My supervisor at the time told me a story about a “train.” The story explained how every train (organization / company) has three types of passengers (workers): “coach passengers;” “drivers;” and “slugs.” The complete story gave a description of each passenger, and the importance of the choices we make. This article will primarily focus on 5 key points I learned from the story: How to make your people great!
Before getting into the 5 key points, let me quickly explain the passengers referred to as the “drivers.” “Drivers” are the passengers who make all the critical decisions on the train (in their organizations)—they are the ones that make things happen and get things done! “Drivers” seek out new ways of doing things and are continuously trying to improve themselves, and help others.
My supervisor also told me that no matter what kind of job I ever have, I always get to choose what kind of “passenger” I will be. He was quick to point out that I won’t always be able to choose the job or the responsibility I have, but I will always be able to choose whether or not I’m a “driver.” He also explained that being a “driver” meant doing your best, no matter what the job is. He encouraged me to always choose to do my best … to choose to be a “driver” … choose to be great!
The “train story” taught me a lot about success, specifically, how to choose to be great. You can observe the people around you, and quickly identify what type of “passenger” they are… you may even decide to share the “train story” with them for encouragement.
As a leader, you are in a best position to get all your people to choose to be “drivers.” The following 5 Steps can help you empower them to choose to be “drivers” … choose to be great!
5 Steps to Make your People Great:
1. Explain how critical their job is and Praise them
Many leaders make the mistake of assuming their people know how their job makes a difference. Ensure your people understand exactly how they impact the “big-picture” and/or the final product. Explaining how their job is critical involves an intentional conversation with them so they clearly understand their importance to the end product…everything each employee does contributes to the overall success of the organization—leaders must ensure they know how.
Combining how they make a difference with recognition and praise is a sure way to motivate your people to choose to be their absolute best. Think about it, you probably aren’t as motivated to do your best work if nobody appreciates you… don’t expect your people to be any different. Praise them often!
*Reality Check: If, you figure out how their job is not critical, you don’t need them anymore!
2. Show your people that no job is beneath you!
As a leader, be willing to do the “dirty work” when your people need help. A “driver” never shies away and/or makes excuses not to work! Run to the challenging “dirty work” and show your people you are able & willing to do any job you ask them to do. Leaders must never forget how valuable the “dirty work” is for building character, and we should be willing to revisit these areas every now and then… not because you have to, but because you want to. Your people will notice!
3. Do your Absolute Best & Help Them Do their Best
Your people deserve to have you doing your absolute best at all times. Granted, nobody is perfect, however, you need to always give your absolute best effort. Additionally, seek ways to help your people be their best. Knowledge is a powerful tool, but it’s useless if you are hoarding it to yourself. The best use of knowledge is giving it away to your people—teach them how to master the tasks they do every day so they can choose to be their absolute best. Sometimes our people are substandard because we have failed to give them the proper training. Give them what they need to succeed and they can choose to be great!
4. Create a Sense of Ownership
Creating a sense of ownership can be tackled from a few different ways, but one of the easiest ways is to involve your people in the decision-making process… give them more responsibility; delegate key tasks to them and let them run with it. In doing so, be sure they know exactly what their responsibilities are and how they will be held accountable. Then don’t micro-manage them…let them soar!
5. Continuously seek feedback on how they can improve the process
One of the key separators between “drivers” and the other passengers is that “drivers” are continuously learning & looking for ways to improve. Leaders must seek feedback from their people on how they can improve their processes. If they truly take ownership of their process, they will want to be looking for ways to improve. Pry ideas out of them if you have to, but keep them thinking of ways to improve. In doing so, you are essentially forcing them to choose to be their best.
The bottom line is that “drivers” choose to give their best effort, no matter what the job is. The 5 Steps above lay out a plan that if utilized, can help your people choose to be their absolute best at all times. Although we can’t always choose our specific job responsibilities, we can always choose what type of “passenger” we will be on the “train.” Challenge your people to choose to be the “drivers,” the ones who give it their absolute best every day. I challenge you all to be the example your people need to choose to be… be “drivers” … be your best!