Posts Tagged 'winning'

Marathon Thinking Develops People

I don’t know about you, but if I had $10 for each time I’ve heard “nobody wants to work anymore” or “there just aren’t any good people in this business anymore,” I’d be rich.

Let’s set the record straight. First, neither statement is true! There are hard workers out there and there are lots of good people. The negative perception about workers is driven by two main factors: first, in today’s Green Industry, we tend to ask more of our people than in the past. Second, we fail to adequately prepare our people to multi-task at desired levels.

Why has this happened? The basic cause is that we have been forced to stretch as never before to make a decent profit.

Costs are higher; profits are shrinking. How does one recoup the deteriorating bottom line? Simple: Get more for each labor dollar.

The thought process has gone like this: “Gee, I can’t make a bag of fertilizer go any farther, and I can’t get nursery stock any cheaper. My fuel costs are stable now, but still way up and equipment costs are still growing. But labor, my people — that’s got to be the answer. No, I can’t lower their pay, but I can increase my expectations, set goals higher and get more out of them.”

It has happened gradually, sort of a creeping escalation of goals and added activities. At first, we told ourselves that if we eased it on them — the higher goals, the more and different tasks — people might grumble. But since they don’t want to lose their jobs, they’d adapt.

For a while that strategy seemed to work. But there is a breaking point beyond which people just won’t go. In many companies, that point was reached and surpassed years ago. The result was predictable: higher turnover and, as word spread about the changing work environment, inability to recruit effectively. Over time, many of our best players left the industry. Hence, “there just aren’t any good people anymore.”

The question to be answered is this: How do we rebuild quality teams, filling chairs with motivated, productive workers at all levels — management included?

I believe in people-centered “Marathon Thinking.” The strategy is to build a true people culture in the business. The focus is on developing the people who deliver our services consistently, not on maximizing short term productivity. The term Marathon Thinking refers to a mind set and development process that begins with well-planned recruiting and training, goals based on individual skills and daily management aimed at achieving small, reachable daily goals followed by consistent recognition. It’s a matter of behavioral conditioning — and it works! You develop people, not in a week or two but over time, one controlled step at a time.

Sign up for the marathon
The premise is that a person who wants the job and understands how to perform tasks successfully, in a supportive world where recognition and appreciation are ongoing, will succeed. That early success will drive the motivation, then to do even more and better work.

Below are plan requirements that will allow you to win with your employees using this strategy:

  • Commit to re-focusing your business model on achieving goals through people. People must become your key resource and drive results. Without this commitment, you’ll waste your time.
  • Plan human requirements farther ahead. Evaluate current staff twice annually and be ready to upgrade in the fall, before winter hiring. Do not keep non-performers or negative people.
  • Establish an effective recruiting plan that communicates the good things about your business. Over time, build your company reputation locally by participating and supporting local events and letting people know your jobs are good jobs.
  • Build your training program to focus on just what the employee needs to know first. Do not try to teach more than the new hire can learn easily. Appoint a trainer who wants the job.
  • Follow initial training with repetitive on-the-job coaching, enhancing gradual learning.
  • Recognize and reward consistently.

For more information, contact me at


The Making Of A Leader


A quick retrospective on the leaders I have known reveals two key characteristics all possess.  Yes, there are identifiable characteristics common to all.  And both are vital.


Years ago, in the midst of an after hours conversation, a very successful businessman and fellow association board member, described what he believed were absolute requirements for leadership success.  He talked about the Big D and the Little D.  He said you need both, but one of them separated real leaders from the want to be majority. Since that time,  experience has taught me that his light hearted definition of what it takes to lead makes good sense.


“Bill,” he asked, “what do you think the Big D is?”  He gave me two choices, desire or discipline.  I thought for a moment.  My top of mind response was – desire.  “You’re wrong,” he happily replied, seeing I’d taken the bait.  “Everyone thinks desire is what it takes.  But it’s more, a lot more.”  Based on his success as a leader, he made it clear that, while it’s easy to say “I want it,” the real measure of a leader is taken in his or her level of discipline. 


“Some things aren’t complicated.”  He scooted up on the edge of his chair. I knew he was trying hard to make his point.  Finger in my face, he repeated, “You gotta be disciplined and do the work every day.  That is the Big D, discipline, the Little D is desire.”  I listened. Obviously, I was hearing life lessons from someone who’d learned about leading the hard way. 


Since the night of that brief conversation, I’ve thought many times about what I’d been told.  I’ve applied that standard to dozens of managers with whom I’ve been associated  and, by golly, I totally convinced my friend was right.


While I’d love to give you his name, I don’t have permission and attempts to contact him about this article have failed.  So, I can only hope you’ll accept my story as factual and evaluate what you’ve read.


At my final manager training session, before retiring from the ‘corporate world’, I summarized a few basic conclusions about what it takes to become an effective leader. 


Big D or no Big D, you first need the desire to lead.  Through the years, I’ve watched repeatedly as strong individual performers were forced to take leadership jobs unprepared and uninspired.  They fail.  Leadership is hard work. You must want it.


Next, as my friend taught me, the discipline must be there on an every day basis.  You must discipline yourself to do what leaders do, and that is to be “hands on” and develop their people.  Failing this, you won’t make it.  Leaders cannot survive by simply working hard and giving orders.  We provide a motivating workplace environment and we teach our team members win.


Finally, you must feel comfortable in the leader’s skin.  Tough to describe in words, while leaders really aren’t born, some of us just take to it, like birds to the sky.  The most successful leaders I know love the process. They can’t wait to get out there with the team; to face the challenges and celebrate every little accomplishment.  And when their people win, they win.  It’s a feeling, a sense of purpose.  Leadership is a calling.


If you are developing a leader in your organization and need some support, let me know.