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The Encroaching Indulgence Factor
By Dan Baker
For the past couple of years, I have been writing this article with the generational process in mind. We have talked about the old timers, the Boomers, the X’ers and the millennial group, and have tried to make sense out of how we can each deal with the other. We have talked about how:
- We have moved from the giving generation to the receiving generation.
- From the work ethic to the leisure ethic.
- From a sense of deferred gratification to a sense of immediate gratification.
- From inner motivation to reward based motivation.
- From learning and remembering to storing and accessing.
- From one-on-one relationships to the Facebook generation.
- From accountability to accommodation…………
And I could go on for a long time talking about all the differences between the older versus the emerging generations.
Also, I think that many of our current problems in trucking can be traced to this whole generational evolution that is so prevalent in our world today. In many industries, the evolution seems to have been rather seamless. But in those industries that depend on interpersonal relationships, and people skills, the generational evolution has been huge.
Our newer generations have been raised in a much more permissive environment, where people skills and common sense were not primary requirements for success. They are high tech – low touch people, who are smarter than most of us put together.
But the real problem is that they are an entitlement generation, who expects to be given what the older generations had to earn on their own. And in fact, we accommodate that need by re-structuring our companies to serve those millennial expectations.
But the result of all that recalibration to fit their needs is that the older generations see that, and realize it’s not a bad way to live. So, all of a sudden, a lot of the old work ethic folks are expecting the same treatment as we are having to give to the younger folks, and that “creeping indulgence factor” is starting to affect us all.
And as one who works the people side of the street in this industry, I think it’s a good change. Today, whether you are dealing with an old timer, or a new millennial, you have got to move from telling to asking. You have to change over from demanding to suggesting.
Today, top leadership people from all over the country have to re-think how they work with their people. And though we old timers love to talk about the old “kick-butt-take-names” culture we were raised in, we expect more from our company today.
Like the guy that said to his fellow worker, “the only difference between my boss and the Pope is that all the Pope wants you to kiss is his ring!” Today, the days of kissing up are over. Today, we build cultures that include, support, encourage and build the best out of our people, regardless of their age or generation.
So, for all you old guys and gals that complain about the newer generations, stop a moment, and realize that they have brought us a better world that demands that we all realize what we should have known all along: If you’re in the trucking business today, first of all, you’re in the people business. And then, secondly, you’re in the trucking business.
How Do You Start A Tornado?
By Dan Baker
These two guys met each other on a beach in Florida and one asks the other one what he’s doing down on a Florida beach. The guy says, “Well, I had a clothing store in Kansas City and it burned down, and I’m down here on the proceeds of an insurance check.”
The other guy says, “Well, that is a total coincidence! I had a clothing store in Wichita Falls, Texas, and a tornado wiped it away, and I’m down here on the proceeds of an insurance check.”
To which the first guy says, “How in the world do you start a tornado?”
Well, that’s a good question. How do you start a tornado? How do you get something off the ground and up and running so it makes a difference?
As your “inter-generational” expert, my best suggestion for a good starting place is to go to where all the fresh, young energy is. And where is all the energy? Most of it is right in the middle of the millennial generation. That’s the generation that was born between 1980 and 2000, and who represents over 25% of our work force.
They are young, educated, high tech, full of energy and fully competent in all of the latest technology. They are quick, impatient, immediate gratification people, who want to take a new idea and go with it.
They are short on common sense and their people skills often need a lot of work. But I think their strongest asset is that they respect and love to learn from the older generations. I am not sure they need to learn a lot of content from us, but I do know they lack and need a work ethic and a sense of deferred gratification.
I think we could start a tornado if we could get the older folks to mentor the younger folks in these areas of hard work, patient persistence, and common sense. We don’t have much to offer in the areas of information technology or data processing. But all the best technology in the world falls flat if it’s not founded on the principles of vision, follow-through, and persistence.
In turn, we would add to the velocity of the tornado if we as older folks could take the time to listen to what this new generation is telling us. It is telling us that the best times are yet to come and that the future will go to those who can break the code of the future.
Just as long as we all remember that old one liner that says, “you don’t have to break the code to get the message.” The message comes first, and I think we all agree that the future will be what we make it, and that there is nothing acting from the future. All the action has to be done in the present moment, and when this present moment becomes the future, then, we can see if we did in fact, start a tornado.
It’s certainly worth the try!
The Blame Game
By Dan Baker
These two guys are getting ready to play a round of golf on a course they’ve never played before and one of them says, “I hear this is a really tough course. It’s going to be a real challenge.”
So the first guy tees up his ball and takes a swing and misses the ball completely. Looking rather embarrassed, he takes another swing and misses again. So, the tries for the third time and misses again and looking very embarrassed and red in the face he says, “Man, you were right. This is really a tough course!”
I love that story, because it points out a way of thinking that is familiar to the younger generations and is a joke to the older generations. The older guy will miss the ball three times and blame himself, and declare that he has simply got to work on his golf swing. The younger generation will tend to blame the situation and circumstances that caused his failure, and declare what a tough course it is.
That reminds me of the story of the kid who is watching a major league baseball game with his grandfather, and as one of the batters comes to the plate. This batter bows his head and says a little prayer and does the sign of the cross before he gets into position.
The grandson says to his granddad, “Hey grandpa, that guy is saying a prayer. Does that help?”
And the grandfather says, “Well, it does if you can hit.”
And today, we all face the challenge of deciding where the problems lie. Do they lie within the situation and the circumstances, or do they lie within us? The older generations tend to blame themselves, and the younger generations tend to find the source of their problems outside of themselves.
Surely, there is a middle ground between these two strategies. If you can hit, a prayer might help you muster the best within yourself to focus on the ball at the plate. If you can’t hit, and think a prayer is going to save you, you’re probably going to strike out.
Maybe the problem is not who you blame. Maybe the problem is blame. Why all the blame? Why does every problem have to be somebody’s fault? Does faultfinding have to be the same thing as problem solving? I don’t think so.
That’s why I have always been so big on using mistakes and failures as lesson material instead of fodder for fault-finding. But that creates a challenge that involves more than finding who to blame. And what is that?
The problem is that we all need to learn that as long as we are trying to protect ourselves and cover our flanks, and look good, or appear innocent, we are focused only on ourselves. And where does that get us? Back to self-protection and trying to stay clear of blame, embarrassment and humiliation.
Maybe the solution to all this blame game stuff is to learn to focus on someone other than ourselves and our own need to escape blame. Are we here to be perfect or to serve? Are we here to be right, or to be useful? Has everything got to be about what we get, or can it be about what we have to give?
I don’t want to sound pious or “goodie-two-shoes”, but I do know that the only happy, fulfilled people I know are the ones who get out of their own way, and focus on planting shade trees they know they’ll never sit under. It’s OK to pray at the plate if you can hit. But it’s not OK to blame a golf course if you can’t hit the ball.
Five Basic Needs
By Dan Baker
The story is told of this lady who was on trial for the murder of her third husband. The prosecutor is questioning her on how her husband died. He said, “Now, Mrs. Brown, this is your third husband who has died after having married you. How did your first husband die?”
And Mrs. Brown said, “He died of mushroom poisoning.” So the lawyer asks, “Well, how did your second husband die?”
And Mrs. Brown says, “He also died of mushroom poisoning.” So, the lawyer asks, well, how did your last husband die?”
And Mrs. Brown says, “He died from a severe blow to the head.” And the lawyer asks, “Well, how did that happen?”
And Mrs. Brown says, “He wouldn’t eat the mushrooms.”
Well, when something is that blatantly obvious, it’s funny because it’s so ridiculous. Just like certain things are so blatantly obvious in the lives of our companies.
As we build our organizations, and develop our cultures around our stated goals, what is our guiding light for making the decisions we make? I would like to suggest that one blatantly obvious factor is making certain we build our organizations around the needs of our people. It’s not a thing world anymore. It’s not a profit world anymore. Today, it’s a people world. And if you are going to build your company around your people, I think it’s a good idea to re-look at what people basically need.
Need fulfillment is a huge item on the agenda of any successful company. And with today’s younger generations, who are not nearly as much interested in your company’s success as they are their own needs, it behooves us all to re-look at just what those needs are.
The first and most basic need people have is the need for safety and security. Until that need is met, people will not go on to satisfy their other needs. When you have to look over your shoulder all the time just to be sure you’re safe, you’re not very useful to yourself or anyone else.
The second need people have is the need for belonging. Am I a part of this family? Is this a place I can call home? Am I a part of or am I apart from? It is hugely important that people know that they have personal membership in your company family.
The third need people have is the need for recognition. Do I matter? Do you know who I am? Do you know my name, and do you use my name? If I do good, do you recognize my accomplishment and reward me with some kind of special attention?
The fourth need everyone has is the need for accomplishment. Is my job big enough for my spirit? Am I doing something important and worthwhile? Is all this effort getting me somewhere? Do all your people see their job as an integral part of the overall life of the company?
And the fifth need we all have is the need for hope. Do I have something to look forward to? Can I justify my expectations here? As one who works a lot on the corporate side of trucking, I often tell my companies that the hope factor is really not your company’s responsibility. The other four needs certainly are, but hope is such a personal, private thing with people, that I simply say that if a company will take care of the safety factor, the belonging factor, the recognition factor and the accomplishment factor, that person can deal with their hope factor on their own.
Be aware of these five basic needs as you look at your organization, and be advised that though our older generations could settle for two or three out of the five, our younger generations need all five, and you need to know that if you plan on them being a part of your future.
Good luck, and get busy.
The Frog Buying Binge
By Dan Baker
There’s this story about this guy that walks into a bar and says to the bartender: “Hey Mister, I’m broke, but if I show you something really cool, will you give me a drink?” And the bartender says, “Well, what have you got?”
So this guy reaches into his coat and pulls out a little piano and puts it up on the bar. Then, he pulls out a hamster and a miniature stool and puts the hamster on the stool and shoves it up to the little piano, and the hamster starts playing the piano, really good.
Then the guy reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a big green bullfrog and puts the bullfrog next to the piano, and this bullfrog starts singing really good. The people are astounded to see this bullfrog singing.
So one of the patrons says, “Mister, that singing frog is fantastic. I’ll give you $5,000 for that frog.” And the guy gives the patron the frog and the patron gives the guy his $5,000 and leaves. After the guy is gone with his frog the bartender says, “Mister, I’m not telling you how to run your business, but that singing frog was worth a lot more than $5,000. And you just gave him up for good for a mere $5,000.”
And the guy says to the bartender, “You don’t understand. The hamster is a ventriloquist!”
Every time I tell that story, I tell my people that we need to quit buying frogs and start investing in hamsters. What do I mean by that? Well, too often, our efforts are directed at the obvious, while we neglect the source.
Today, the big push is for drivers. The recruiters are out in force, beating the bushes for every driver they can find. There simply aren’t as many available drivers because our younger generations simply don’t want to drive a truck. They have been told that being a truck driver is a second-class job, and besides, they don’t want to be gone from home that much.
I call this recruitment craze the frog buying binge. What we need to be doing is going back to the source of why a driver joins a company in the first place. Again I tell you that recruitment is not a process of promotion and marketing. It is a process of attraction, and if you are going to succeed in recruiting drivers, you have got to do whatever it is you have to do to become the kind of company that a driver wants to work for.
First, you’ve got to be the kind of company that the drivers you’ve already got want to stay for, and then, you have got to be so good, that people who have never heard about you want to come and be a part of. There are those kinds of trucking companies out there, and they read this, and say, “He’s right!”
You bet I’m right. When you’re dealing with drivers, pushing doesn’t work. You can josh and fun an ole driver a million miles, but you can’t push him a foot.
Today, the big word is company culture. What is it like to be you? What is it like to drive for you? Who are you focused on first: your customers or your drivers? Just remember that you drivers perform the only function in your entire organization that creates the revenue that feeds the rest of you. You take care of them, and they’ll take care of you. Be a ventriloquist and learn to throw your message out there so those who hear it will come; and they will.