To become a more effective leader of
Praise the slightest improvement and
every improvement. Be “hearty in
approbation and lavish in your
GIVE A DOG A GOOD
What do you do when a person who has been a good
worker begins to turn in shoddy work? You can fire him
or her, but that really doesn’t solve anything. You can
berate the worker, but this usually causes resentment.
Henry Henke, a service manager for a large truck dealership
in Lowell, Indiana, had a mechanic whose
work had become less than satisfactory. Instead of
bawling him out or threatening him, Mr. Henke called
him into his office and had a heart-to-heart talk with
“Bill,” he said, “you are a fine mechanic. You have
been in this line of work for a good number of years. You
have repaired many vehicles to the customers’ satisfaction.
In fact, we’ve had a number of compliments about
the good work you have done. Yet, of late, the time you
take to complete each job has been increasing and your
work has not been up to your own old standards. Because
you have been such an outstanding mechanic in
the past, I felt sure you would want to know that I am
not happy with this situation, and perhaps jointly we
could find some way to correct the problem.”
Bill responded that he hadn’t realized he had been
falling down in his duties and assured his boss that the
work he was getting was not out of his range of expertise
and he would try to improve in the future.
Did he do it? You can be sure he did. He once again
became a fast and thorough mechanic. With that
Mr. Henke had given him to live up to, how
he do anything else but turn out work comparable
which he had done in the past.
“The average person,” said Samuel Vauclain, then
president of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, "can be
led readily if you have his or her respect and if you show
that you respect that person for some kind of ability.”
In short, if you want to improve a person in a certain
spect, act as though that particular trait were already
one of his or her outstanding characteristics. Shakespeare
said “Assume a virtue, if you have it not.” And it
might be well to assume and state openly that other people
have the virtue you want them to develop. Give
them a fine reputation to live up to, and they will make
prodigious efforts rather than see you disillusioned.
Georgette Leblanc, in her book Souvenirs, My Life
with Maeterlinck, describes the startling transformation
of a humble Belgian Cinderella.
“A servant girl from a neighboring hotel brought my
meals,” she wrote. “She was called ‘Marie the Dish
washer’ because she had started her career as a scullery
assistant. She was a kind of monster, cross-eyed, bandy legged,
poor in flesh and spirit.
“One day, while she was holding my plate of macaroni
in her red hand, I said to her point-blank, ‘Marie, you do ot know what treasures are within you.’
“Accustomed to holding back her emotion, Marie
waited a few moments, not daring to risk the slightest
gesture for fear of a castastrophe. Then she put the dish
on the table, sighed and said ingenuously, ‘Madame, I
would never have believed it.’ She did not doubt, she
did not ask a question. She simply went back to the
kitchen and repeated what I had said, and such is the
force of faith that no one made fun of her. From that day
on, she was even given a certain consideration. But the
most curious change of all occurred in the humble Marieherself. Believing she was the tabernacle of
unseen marvels, she began taking care of her
face and body so carefully that her starved
youth seemed to bloom and
modestly hide her plainness.
“Two months later, she announced her coming marriage
with the nephew of the chef. ‘I’m going to be a
lady,’ she said, and thanked me. A small phrase had
changed her entire life.”
Georgette Leblanc had given “Marie the Dishwasher”
a reputation to live up to - and that reputation had transformed
Bill Parker, a sales representative for a food company
in Daytona Beach, Florida, was very excited about the
new line of products his company was introducing and
was upset when the manager of a large independent
food market turned down the opportunity to carry it in
his store. Bill brooded all day over this rejection and
decided to return to the store before he went home that
evening and try again.
“Jack,” he said, “since I left this morning I realized I
hadn’t given you the entire picture of our new line, and
I would appreciate some of your time to tell you about
the points I omitted. I have respected the fact that you
are always willing to listen and are big enough to change
your mind when the facts warrant a change.”
Could Jack refuse to give him another hearing? Not
with that reputation to live up to.
One morning Dr. Martin Fitzhugh, a dentist in Dublin,
Ireland, was shocked when one of his patients
pointed out to him that the metal cup holder which she
was using to rinse her mouth was not very clean. True,
the patient drank from the paper cup, not the holder, but
it certainly was not professional to use tarnished equipment.
When the patient left, Dr. Fitzhugh retreated to his
private office to write a note to Bridgit, the charwoman,
who came twice a week to clean his office. He
My dear Bridgit,
I see you so seldom, I thought I’d take the time to thank
you for the fine job of cleaning you’ve been doing. By the
way, I thought I’d mention that since two hours, twice a
week, is a very limited amount of time, please feel free to
work an extra half hour from time to time if you feel you
need to do those “once-in-a-while” things like polishing
the cup holders and the like. I, of course, will pay you for
the extra time.
“The next day, when I walked into my office,” Dr.
Fitzhugh reported, "My desk had been polished to a
mirror-like finish, as had my chair, which I nearly slid
out of. When I went into the treatment room I found the
shiniest, cleanest chrome-plated cup holder I had ever
seen nestled in its receptacle. I had given my char-woman
a fine reputation to live up to, and because of
this small gesture she outperformed all her past efforts.
How much additional time did she spend on this? That’s
right-none at all ."
There is an old saying: “Give a dog a bad name and
you may as well hang him.” But give him a good name
- and see what happens!
When Mrs. Ruth Hopkins, a fourth-grade teacher in
Brooklyn, New York, looked at her class roster the first
day of school, her excitement and joy of starting a new
term was tinged with anxiety. In her class this year she
would have Tommy T., the school’s most notorious “bad
boy.” His third-grade teacher had constantly complained
about Tommy to colleagues, the principal and
anyone else who would listen. He was not just mischievous;
he caused serious discipline problems in the class,
picked fights with the boys, teased the girls, was fresh to
the teacher, and seemed to get worse as he grew older.
His only redeeming feature was his ability to learn rapidly
and master the-school work easily.
Mrs. Hopkins decided to face the “Tommy problem”
immediately. When she greeted her new students, she
made little comments to each of them: “Rose, that’s a
pretty dress you are wearing,” “Alicia, I hear you draw
beautifully.” When she came to Tommy, she looked him
straight in the eyes and said, “Tommy, I understand you
are a natural leader. I’m going to depend on you to help
me make this class the best class in the fourth grade this
year.” She reinforced this over the first few days by complimenting
Tommy on everything he did and commenting
on how this showed what a good student he was.
With that reputation to live up to, even a nine-year-old
couldn’t let her down - and he didn’t.