December 4, 1990

Adjusting Your “Motivator”

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Practicing the Power of One often requires stepping out from the normal march of conventional thinking and looking at life from a different perspective. Mike Abrashoff reversed his approach to identifying with his troops. He chose to start from the bottom up, instead of dictating from the top down, by asking his guys what they needed from the ship and what the ship needed from them. Flipping his idea of how to lead people upside down brought great rewards.

His team knew he cared about them, he learned what mattered to them, and hence was able to lead them more easily and provide them with value in their jobs. The bottom line: Mike learned to focus on other people first. And that’s the key tenet of practicing the Power of One. He adjusted his motivator so that he was energized by helping others and doing the good, the right, and the true.

When Mike started practicing the Power of One, he realized the need to get in touch with his sailors to find out what they valued. This isn’t a new thought, but it isn’t always an easy task to accomplish. For example, a CEO buddy of mine makes it a practice to go on a field trip with the different layers of his organization a couple of times a year. He struggles to find the time for this exercise—and often wonders how necessary it is—but he does it religiously anyway. Why? It puts him in touch with the people of his organization in a more personal way. He sees them doing their jobs, interacting in their surroundings. Instead of seeing his workers only at staff meetings where they’re prepared to speak in a specific way, this CEO goes into his workers’ elements and sees what they really do. And in this exercise he learns more about them, about what they need to better do their jobs, and about the people they serve—something you can’t learn sitting in a corner office with no contact with the people below. Does it really pay off to treat people that way? Marriott thinks so:

Motivate them, train them, care about them and make winners out of them…we know that if we treat our employees correctly, they’ll treat the customers right. And if customers are treated right, they’ll come back.—J. Marriott Jr.

That is what made one fellow say that practicing the Power of One really is the Ethical Circle of Life. The Power of One is not complicated at all. It is simply the internal motivation that says I am going to treat you the way I would want to be treated—all the time—regardless.

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