Filling the Glass for Meeting
to Do When You Can't Find Perfect People
By Barry Maher
Maher, Las Vegas, Nevada.
keep hearing that some people see the glass as half empty, others see it as half
full. The person I want to be, the person I want to hire, and the person who
will be more successful and more useful to his company, his society, his family,
his friends, his dog, his parakeet and himself is the person who isn’t
concerned with whether the glass is half empty or half full, but with figuring
out what he has to do to fill the thing up.”
the Glass: The Skeptic’s Guide to Positive Thinking by Barry Maher
one of my keynotes, an attendee who introduced himself as Mr. Lansdorf asked me,
"What can I do about working for a corporation full of stiffs?" In
spite of the fact that the company paid quite well, Mr. Lansdorf's people never
performed the way he hoped they would when he hired them. His co-workers weren't
much better. As for his boss, "He couldn't care less about my problems.
He'd like to be able to forget about my whole department."
what exactly do you want?" I asked.
"What I'd like is for people to do the job they're supposed to
do—the way they're supposed to do it."
"Which means?" I asked.
"To do something beyond the minimum—to go the extra mile for the
company. Everybody expects something for nothing."
"Hey, I earn my money," Mr. Lansdorf insisted. "I go way
beyond the minimum."
"And it gets you?"
"Nothing, that's the point. It gets me nothing."
"So how long are you going to keep doing that?"
"Not much longer, believe me."
"But you want others to go beyond the minimum—without putting
something it in for them? Aren't you the one who's expecting for something for
"I want people to do what they should do."
"So what we're talking about is morality and ethics? What people should
"Exactly." he said.
"So as a manager,
your ability to
manage is based upon people doing what they should do?
Otherwise you can't get the results you want?"
"No of course not. Nobody does what they should. At least nobody in
"So wouldn't you be better off trying to find a way to get the
results you need with the people you've got rather than the perfect people who
do what they should and apparently don't exist. Or at least don't exist in your
Obviously. Bingo! I thought. I felt like Socrates: elucidating my
point with just the right questions. Of course later someone reminded me of the
famous report given by a third-grader: "Socrates was a Greek philosopher
who went around giving people advice. They poisoned him." So much for the
If it was so obvious why had he been asking his people to go the extra mile when
there was really no advantage in it for them? Even if they went along in order
to stay on his good side, how enthusiastic would they be?
Can't Sell an Empty Glass
Why do we all so frequently act like Mr. Lansdorf? Trish asks her boss to
go out of his way for her and help get her promoted. There's nothing in it for
him. If anything, losing Trish will make his job more difficult. He's a nice
guy. He may help her. But wouldn't he go along far more willingly if he was
doing it to gain another ally in management; or to earn points with the company
for having developed another manager; or to free up Trish's spot so he can
reward—and keep from losing—that great new talent he's been grooming on the
rung below hers.
It's obvious: you can't sell anybody anything if you don't
them some benefit. You can't motivate anyone by offering them an empty glass.
It's obvious—and we all forget it. Constantly. We hope ethics or morality or
religion or character will make up for the lack of incentive.
Does your idea of character tell
you that when there's little or nothing in it for you that you should devote
yourself unstintingly to providing for someone else's welfare? If so please
call, I've got a job for you.
If I believe that
playing by your rules, systems, procedures, traditions or morality guarantees
that I'm going to lose, do not expect me to play by them.
Bosses who tell you they can't hire good workers are usually telling you
they're poor bosses. They're telling you they aren't providing
incentive for people to meet their standards. Or if they have provided the
incentive, they haven’t provided sufficient nuts and bolts, real-world
training and direction, leaving their people wanting to climb the mountain but
without a clear enough trail to follow. To mix metaphors a bit, they aren’t
adding enough water to the glass.
And how many failed meetings have we all
attended that had exactly the same problem?
Mr. Lansdorf considered himself a hardheaded realist. But he was less a
realist than the biggest “lets all think happy thoughts,”
Pollyanna that ever failed to provide genuine long-term motivation to a meeting.
At least the Pollyanna provides the temporary incentive of a little feel-good
smoke and mirrors. Lansdorf expected to get results without offering anything.
Too many meetings spend too much time in a usually vain attempt to get
attendees to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. Often it’s not
even half full. Sometimes it’s a lot closer to empty—and leaky badly. The
best meeting planners are far less concerned with whether to call the glass half
full or half empty than with figuring out a way to fill it up.
Filling the Glass. Not
only is that a good title for a book—or
a keynote—but it’s really what
meeting planning is all about.
© Copyright, Barry Maher &
Associates, Las Vegas, Nevada, Los Angeles,
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