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The Gift of the Goose

If you wait for final results before patting people on the back, you might wait forever.

 by Ken Blanchard

In my last two columns, I discussed two of the three secrets presented in my new book, Gung Ho!, a parable co-authored with Sheldon Bowles. It tells the story of Peggy Sinclair, a manager who turns around a failing manufacturing plant with the help of Andy Longclaw, a Native American. Andy teaches her and everyone in the plant three motivational secrets he learned from his grandfather.

The first secret, the Spirit of the Squirrel, emphasizes the need for people to perform worthwhile work. The second secret, the Way of the Beaver, explains why people should control the process of achieving their goals. In this column, I want to talk about the third and final secret, the Gift of the Goose, which adds enthusiasm to the first two secrets.

Andy and Peggy take a canoe into the marshes to watch flocks of geese. Peggy notices how noisy they are. Andy asks her, "So what's the honking all about? Who are the geese honking at?"

"Each other?" ventures Peggy.

"Correct," says Andy. "And why are they honking?" Peggy remembers the scolding squirrel and the beavers who whacked their tails in warning. She concludes that, unlike squirrels, which chatter at anything, these geese were talking with each other. Further, the honking didn't serve as a warning because it made no difference to flight patterns or the periodic switch in leaders as the geese flew in their customary "V."

"If it's not a warning," prompts Andy, "What's the opposite?"

Peggy considers and replies, "That everything is great? Fantastic? Terrific?"

"Of course," agrees Andy. "They are cheering each other on."

So Peggy learns that the Gift of the Goose means encouraging one another. All the geese are honking, not just the lead goose. Which means that not only managers cheer on team members; everyone can cheer each other on.

People who set out to accomplish something they believe is important and worthwhile -- right work -- need to contribute to how that work gets done -- the right way. Put those two together, and you've got a mission. But the driving force behind any mission is a reason for accomplishing it. A need must be fulfilled. Gung Ho! people do right work, the right way, for the right reward.

This third secret has three parts. The first emphasizes congratulations. Whether active or passive, congratulations must be true, i.e., timely, responsive, unconditional and enthusiastic.

Andy teaches Peggy that you can't overdo genuine congratulations. Active affirmations praise people for their work or offer a reward. Perhaps even more powerful, silent affirmations send a very clear message: "You're good. You can handle this. I trust you." Giving competent people the tools for the job and then getting out of their way is always a genuine    affirmation.

      The second part of the Gift of the Goose involves no score, no game but much cheering. In sports events, people constantly cheer a team's progress. If you wait for final results before patting people on the back, you might wait forever. Cheer progress; it's a moving target. Praise motivates people to continue to work toward their goals.

The final part of the Gift of the Goose paraphrases Einstein's E=mc2. "Einstein was a bit mixed up about exactly what        c-squared meant," grins Andy. "Obviously, it means two c's: Enthusiasm equals mission times cash and congratulations." Cash comes first because you must feed people's material needs before you can feed their spirits.

Why do people focus so much on cash rewards? Unfortunately, we seldom create opportunities to congratulate each other. It's hard to imagine union leaders storming into a meeting, smashing their fists on the desk and demanding, "We want more congratulations!" And yet, many labor problems have spirit issues at their core, with lack of respect being perhaps the   biggest.

Congratulations offer more potential than cash. The amount of available cash is limited, but managers have an unlimited supply of congratulations. It's important to pay people fairly, but managers also should heap on congratulations and feed people's souls. "The Spirit of the Squirrel and the Way of the Beaver provide the spark," observes Andy. "The Gift of the Goose is like throwing gasoline on the spark."

Now you know the three secrets of Gung Ho! Remember these words from Andy Longclaw: "Too many toil alone. They are unhappy; their spirits die at the office door." The Gung Ho! secrets can make a difference.


About the author

Ken Blanchard is chairman of Blanchard Training and Development Inc. in San Diego and author, with Michael O'Connor, of Managing by Values (Berrett-Koehler, 1996).

© 1997 Blanchard Management Report, Blanchard Training and Development Inc. Telephone (800) 728-6000, ext. 5201, fax (619) 743-5030 or e-mail kblanchard@qualitydigest.com.


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