A third category of parental skills is the ability to motivate people and inspire them to do their very best. A senior manager at Texas Instruments, a mother who runs a $1 billion line facility, calls this "growing human capabilities." She makes the assumption that everyone has an innate drive to excel at something. The job of a good manager, like that of a good parent, is to encourage that drive to be worthy or successful. Unquestionably the best way to do this is through positive reinforcement. One bookstore owner says that when a customer asks him for the best business book in the store he refers them to the childrens section and The Little Engine That Could
. Remember what the little train said? "I think I can, I think I can..." Tell someone that, whether its your child or your employee, and it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One of my favorite stories about motivating people came from an executive at JP Morgan Chase. He recalled a highly effective sales manager who awarded the top sales person of the month with a big gold crown, presented to them in front of all their peers. He said everyone thought this was a bit cheesy, but they also killed themselves to win that crown. I said this sounded a bit like giving children a gold star.
"Now that you mention it," he said, "that manager was a kindergarten teacher before she went into banking!"
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.