The additional croquette and why you should keep your workers informed and motivated

I was having some tapas with five of my friends from college.

We arrive to that big fancy bar.

Before ordering, someone realized something strange happened with the menu…

  • 6 croquettes: 6 €
  • additional croquet: 0,75 € each

It was an obvious mistake, we agree. If you would order six croquettes you’d pay 1€ for each one. And then, from the seventh on, you would get a 0,25€ discount.

But we were having fun, so it couldn’t hurt to ask the waiter about it. So we ask him if we could order six “additional” croquettes instead of the six pack.

He told us, “if it’s in the menu, you can ask for it”.

We explained him that it should be an error, that if we ordered only additional, they were making less money.

“I only work here”, he answered.

In the beginning, he didn’t know about the menu. But in the end, he didn’t care about the profit.

Please… please, please, please… If you are a boss, a manager, an owner, keep in mind that your workers make the profit. Keep in mind that they need to understand how this profit is made. But, above all, keep in mind that they need to care about it.

Inform them. Motivate them. Good news is that both things are strongly related.


Who is your sidekick?

As Batman has Robin, as Maverick has Goose, as Frodo has Sam… chances are you need a sidekick.

On one hand, a sidekick will be at your side whenever you’re in big trouble.


On the other hand, a sidekick is someone you can train as your replacement.

If you don’t have a sidekick, you’d better look for one.

Don’t give up, don’t let others give up, and absolutely never make others give up

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Henry Ford

Don’t give up.

Don’t let others give up.

And most important; Don’t MAKE others give up.

Like a tennis player who always run an extra step and returns one more ball, this resilience will give you an extra chance to get your project’s goal. As an individual contributor, you always have the option to never give up.

When a colleague is in trouble or has failed, you can always show up and offer some help, whether it represents a helping hand, a good piece of advice or just listening to some whining. As a team member, you always have the option to support the rest of the team.

Finally, as a boss or a leader, you have the power to MAKE others give up. Everyday, intended or not, you are leading by example. If you are not recognizing their good work, if you look depressed or desperate, if you just punish the one who tries to make a difference or goes the extra mile, you are setting the stage for people giving up. And there’s no bigger single tragedy for the performance of a team, that having team members who doesn’t feel like doing their best. If someone doesn’t think the work is worth the effort, they won’t fight enough to get the task done. As a leader, never ever allow yourself to make your team give up.

Never give up. Don’t let others give up. And absolutely never MAKE others give up.

Quote on accepting blame

Rita Hayworth playing Gilda (via wikicommons)When they had the earthquake in San Francisco
Back in nineteen-six
They said that Mother Nature
Was up to her old tricks
That’s the story that went around
But here’s the real low-down
Put the blame on Mame, boys
Put the blame on Mame

Gilda Mundson (singing on 1946 film Gilda)

A leader is eager to let team members make their own bets.

A leader is willing to accept the blame when some of the bets go wrong.

If you want the team to grow, you need both sides of the equation.

So be always ready to sing the song.



Quote on creative complaining: Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan gives us a remarkable clue about how to complaining about your working conditions. Captain Miller’s (Tom Hanks) squad has been complaining about its mission’s goals. And then, Private Jackson complains in a different way. A way which pleases Hanks character.

Private Jackson: Well, from my way of thinking, sir, this entire mission is a serious misallocation of valuable military resources.

Captain Miller: Yeah. Go on.

Private Jackson: Well, it seems to me, sir, that God gave me a special gift, made me a fine instrument of warfare.

Captain Miller: Reiben, pay attention. Now, this is the way to gripe. Continue, Jackson.

Private Jackson: Well, what I mean by that, sir, is… if you was to put me and this here sniper rifle anywhere up to and including one mile of Adolf Hitler with a clear line of sight, sir… pack your bags, fellas, war’s over. Amen.

If your working conditions are bad, if your goals are unclear, please complain, but keep your complaining creatively directed towards a solution.

After that, Captain Miller is asked by his men, about his own complains.

Private Reiben: Oh, that’s brilliant, bumpkin. Hey, so, Captain, what about you? I mean, you don’t gripe at all?

Captain Miller: I don’t gripe to *you*, Reiben. I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you. You should know that as a Ranger.

Private Reiben: I’m sorry, sir, but uh… let’s say you weren’t a captain, or maybe I was a major. What would you say then?

Captain Miller: Well, in that case… I’d say, “This is an excellent mission, sir, with an extremely valuable objective, sir, worthy of my best efforts, sir. Moreover… I feel heartfelt sorrow for the mother of Private James Ryan and am willing to lay down my life and the lives of my men – especially you, Reiben – to ease her suffering.

It’s not that Captain Miller never complains to his superiors. We can see him complaining during other sequences in the movie. But he won’t complain in front of his men (or to them).

If you’re leading a group, never, ever complain to them. Let their morale be as high as possible. Let them know you are controlling the situation. Try hard to let them understand the goals and to overcome the constraints and the conflicts. Complain to the ones that must find a solution. Complain to your boss. Then complain to his boss.

Anyhow, if you love what you do and believe in it, please, start complaining. Right now.

Team Leader vs Project Manager

The frontier between Kingdom of The Project Manager and Republic of the Team Leader is subtle and, too often, unexplored.

Projects will need planning on the short term to keep them within the company’s strategy, and will need several sorts of management on the mid-term.

On the other hand, teams, specially unexperienced ones, will need a guide on a daily basis to assure everyone is working at full efficiency.

“[Project Manager’s] job is not to advocate for the project, but to be objective […] and determine what is working, what needs improving, and what must be jettisoned. This takes the project manager out of the role of managing a project team and into the frontier of leading both the team and the stakeholders.” (American Management Association Play book, T.Williams)

If both roles have to be played by different people, chances are this people will conflict in several areas. This is my mental image to keep the whole relationship consistent.
Cyclops as Team Leader of the X Men

Cyclops, as the Team Leader for the X Men, is a primum inter pares, respected for his experience and capable of making the team working together to conquer goals far beyond the isolated powers of each one. He is always in the battlefield with the team and will command when needed.

Charles Xavier as Project Ma

Professor X, as the Project Manager, have to have many things in his brain. Both from within the team and from the environment. Interferences from other organizations or from the government. The competition’s master plan. Legal issues and long term goals. And of course, taking care of his team, potentiating it as a group, providing it with the tools they need, and keeping them in the right mid term direction.

Related: What superheroes teach us about diversity in teams.