Look What They Make You Give
June 29, 2009
Operations and IT Consultant
TopicsBooks, Commitment, Contribution, Dream Manager, Dreams, Resources, Sustainability
Did you see the recent Bourne movies The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum? In the first movie, The Bourne Identity, Jason and Marie run into the countryside to hide out at her friend Eamon's chateau. Another of the Treadstone assasins, The Professor, played by Clive Owen, comes to kill Bourne, but Jason thwarts the effort and mortally wounds the Professor. Before the Professor dies, he says to Jason, "Look at this. Look what they make you give." You can watch a clip of the movie here.
In the final movie, when a confused young assassin has his sights set on Jason and we're wondering if this is the end, Jason strikes up a short conversation with the man. "Do you even know why you're supposed to kill me? Look at us. Look what they make you give."
What do you make your employees give?
Do you lead a team or a company? Have you considered the question from their perspective? Have you even considered (or truly appreciated) how much your success depends on your associates' contribution? They contribute their lives in exchange for your organization's success. What do you offer in return?
Many CEO's and executives spend their career's pursuing customers and stockholders. There are countless legends about executives and large clients or stockholders. As an executive, what keeps you awake at night, the loss of a huge account or poor return for the owners?
Would anyone consider the most important question answered by any company as "Do we reward our people fairly? Do we appreciate the contribution made by our associates?" As an employee, think about your current or past employers. Do you think your present company spends more time making sure shareholders, customers or employees are satisfied with the results?
Consider the associate's perspective. Every employee or associate asks the question, "What must I give, and what do I get for it? I'm investing my life in this company. What do I get in return? What's the ultimate reward of spending my life at your company?"
Matthew Kelly's book titled The Dream Manager presents an interesting idea in the way of giving back to your associates. The book is written as a fable with practical application at the end. The story is about a fictional janitorial service company in the midwest. The had very high turnover and their head of operations wanted to do something about it. So they came up with the idea of helping their people reach their dreams. The fable is a believable story about how this worked out, all the way down to using very believable yet surprising numbers about how the company was transformed, how the leadership came to embrace the idea and how the lives of the people working for this company were changed. The story is a great idea about creating a process to equip your employees to achieve their goals and dreams BECAUSE the work for you, not in spite of working for you.
The book is worth reading twice, or more. In three hours (or less for you lucky readers) you can pick up some great ideas and energy for making a difference in the workplace. I was so excited after having read it that I went the next week to their Living The Dream event, a day long seminar that helps drive home the principles in the book. Floyd Consulting leads the event. It was exciting and energizing to be in a room of people that shared the dream of helping people reach their dreams through their employment. It was a great day.
At the event, I found out that the book was less a work of fiction than I originally thought. It's based on actual events at real companies, but some things were changed to make it so the companies themselves did not become the focal point of the book. I agree the Dream Manager process needs to be the point. Focus on the organizations would create an undue burden for those same businesses. The people behind the idea are committed to helping businesses improve employee engagement and improve top and bottom line results at the same time.
When was the last time you thought deeply about your own dreams? Have you made the progress you hoped you would on your dreams? I am still trying to figure mine out. I was disappointed by the lack of clarity and focus around my own dreams. It's no wonder then that we're not on the road to achieving them. Only when you begin to focus, identify, plan and work toward your dreams do they start becoming reality.
Do you dream of helping others? The Dream Manager is a good way to start. Begin your dream pursuit anew. If you haven't read the book, get a copy. Have you thought about your dreams? Leave a comment and help us with your ideas. Either way, the more you focus on your dreams, the greater the chances you'll achieve them. Let's live our lives on purpose.
Great questions throughout Mike. For me the best posts are often those that leave me with more important questions to consider than answers provided. This one hits that mark for me!
Do you think the current economic situation has made the tendency to make it even less likely for leaders to consider the question “what do we make our employees give?” Are employees more likely to compromise how they want to be treated because they are in fear of losing their jobs?
I think companies can get away with a lot in the short term because of the pervasive fear. Although I believe the ones that will thrive as things turn, and perhaps even the ones who will take the lead in turning things around will be the ones that consider the needs and dreams of their people.
Thanks for a though provoking post. Love your taste in movies! And the book looks worthwhile, too.
Reading between the lines, I think we share a trait of watching movies and finding key truths of leadership embedded within them. In this case the question you reference, a very good one. I must admit I missed it in watching the Bourne series and reading the Ludlum books years back. Great job identifying this excellent thoughtful question.
There is no doubt that businesses have lost their sense of what they ask their employees to give. Hidden within the utilitarian ethical stance of taking care of the business and the majority of employees at the expense of the few who are let go, I believe we have not asked this question enough.
Have we really done everything necessary to help organizations survive hard times. Have we truly led organizations and stewarded them well so that when the economy turns we are not forced to ask employees to give that much more.
For me this is what leadership is about. Leading for the future even when it is easy to simply enjoy the present. Leaders have a responsibility to those who grant them their leadership to do so with excellence and never take it for granted, never abuse the trust, never coast, never hide behind excuses when the economy turns…
Mike – great post and loved the “Bourne” movie analogy. Some years ago, I asked an executive; “What’s the greatest asset in your company?” He replied; “Easy, people.” I said; “Really? Do you really value the employees you have above all else?” His response was; “No. I revenue and my share price, but I’d tell the board, analysts and our employees that its my team and employees.”
I could have been shocked, but at least he was telling the truth. A sad truth, but the truth still. As leaders, if we aren’t focused in expanding the capabilities of our team and growing them, then what’s the use?
Not only do leaders have to “dream of helping others,” they have to place those dreams into action and begin mentoring those they manage, support those in their community and most importantly, within the walls of their own homes.
If those you lead see you engaging and putting forth your best effort on their behalf, you’ll answer many of the questions in your post by providing a path that’s in their best interest.
Thanks for the wonderful comments. I appreciate you taking the time to read the article and to comment.
Susan – I do think business people automatically flow with the times and currently expect employees to automatically give more. I had a conversation yesterday related to this idea that will become another post soon. I’m afraid it’s too easy to join in the tug-of-war rather than choose not to.
Ron – Thanks for the kind words. The post was my wife’s idea. I was too busy watching the movies to make the connection. However, it does always seem to take a leader to act in the organization’s best interests rather than just doing what’s easy.
Jim – I remain amazed at the number of supposedly intelligent people that fail to understand that the best thing they can do for their revenue and share price is invest in their people. Thanks for your insight.
Excelent piece. Surely it’s better to include everyone’s needs. this is the best way to motivate team members and the whole organisation benefits as a result.
This article really hits home with me. We’ve been talking to our niece about employee loyalty and what company’s expect and what they get from the younger generation.
My father’s generation expected to work for the same company for their whole careers. My niece’s generation will bail out for any reason and go to the next company. They have no loyalty at all. Somewhere in between is my generation, still struggling with what we owe an employer and what they owe us. “Look what they make us give” is really instructive. I need to find this book and look at the other message too. spw
Thanks for the great post and book recommendation. I’ll definitely look into it.
Thanks for these thoughts and the book recommendation. I’ve ordered it and will read it.
This reminds me of a lot of the collaboration thoughts where we are trying to work ‘together’ to get things done. In this case, the leaders of a team and the team members working together, helping each other, to get great things done.
My apologies for the delay in responding. We’ve been going through some transition here, but thankfully we’re about done.
@Zhana and @Mike, thanks for the comments. It’s nice to meet you.
@Sandy, It’s good to hear from you. One of my passions is creating a workplace that people don’t want to leave. I think that’s the only answer to some of the generational challenges. It can be very difficult to properly reward someone for giving their best hours of their best days to a company. I think you’re niece’s (and my children’s) generation is simply reacting to the truth of what has happened to our generation with our valueless 401k’s and the frequency of layoffs. Good points.
@Mark, It’s nice to meet you. I agree; if we work together, we create synergy and find opportunities to help each other out. Working apart creates opportunities only for failure.
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