Employees have been hurt by less pay, some furloughs. It will be their turn soon.

Some time ago there was a very successful book and program that spread across the country. The program was called “Gung Ho.” It covered three cute headlines.

  • The Spirit of the Squirrel
  • The Way of the Beaver
  • The Gift of the Goose

I know it doesn’t fit in well in our “sophisticated age” and highly technological world. But it does fit into the psyche of the American worker.

  • The Spirit of the Squirrel deals with the work we do as being worthwhile, which goes far beyond being important.
  • The Way of the Beaver is each of us being in control of what we do and how we do it.
  • The Gift of the Goose is about cheering each other on.

Another book that has caught my attention is, “The Flight of the Buffalo.” An interesting aspect in this book is the fact that buffalo faced extinction due in part to their leadership paradigm. There was one lead buffalo for the complete herd. What the leader does, every other buffalo does. It then draws the contrast of the goose, where the leadership is shared by all the geese in the flock. An interesting contrast.

I believe we are in that spot ourselves, in a manner of speaking. Leadership is about taking people to places they wouldn’t go by themselves. That was the underlying theme in my last two monthly columns. (Note: Many of you have sent me e-mails addressing the new model. I will address those comments and thoughts in the October issue) It is quite clear that the business model has changed, and it requires new and fresh thinking – and yes, fresh leadership. It is the leader’s responsibility to “find the future.” We have a scared and to some degree angry workplace these days. People need leadership to get them out of that head space.

Management theory is always looking for methods or tools to help “motivate” employees. I am sure by now you know my thinking on that. I think management can demotivate employees, but unless the employee comes to the job with internal drive it can’t be given to them by someone else.

More recently, Patrick Lencioni published a book called, “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.” (Check our reading list). It contains very timely information and insight into the psyche of many of the employees working in America today. Lencioni uses three key descriptors in his book about employees’ feelings and thinking.

  • Anonymous
  • Irrelevance
  • Immeasurable

They feel they are anonymous, that no one in management cares about them or knows them. They feel irrelevant, that their job and they themselves are irrelevant in the overall scheme of things. They feel that their job is immeasurable; they feel misunderstood and undervalued by many people, especially management.

Thankfully, this indictment of leadership can be easily overcome. We are all people first, and sometimes we forget that in the flurry of bombarding information and pressures we face in our daily lives. Our families, our health, our finances, the children’s schooling, the mortgage – there is a lot going on out there before we even get to work. Don’t for a minute forget that most of the American workforce lives from paycheck to paycheck and that one blip in their lives can cause unbelievable stress and anxiety.

Take the time to deal with this situation. Don’t wait any longer. Sit down with your employees individually and collectively. Talk to them and find out more about them; care about them and let them know that you care about them. Share your thinking and your concerns about the market and the business.

When the market turns or improves, and it will, the shoe will be on the other foot. I want to make sure that the good employees, the ones you currently have working harder every day to satisfy customers, will stay with you. Don’t you?

Don’t forget our AED-sponsored Parts and Service training coming next month, in Chicago. Don’t let your key managers get left behind. Don’t think about false savings and leaving underskilled people in place. That will cost you much more. Help your “heroes” continue to grow.

by Ron Slee
September, 2009
CED Magazine

About CED Magazine

Construction Equipment Distribution is published by Associated Equipment Distributors, a nonprofit trade association founded in 1919, whose membership is primarily comprised of the leading equipment dealerships and rental companies in the U.S. and Canada.

With CED, content is king. No fluff, no advertorials – CED just gives AED members what they want to read: business information, industry and association news, plus fresh, original and useful feature articles that they share with their management teams. Our subjects range from rental, product support, sales strategy and customer service to technology, construction markets and legislation – and much more.