Our Best Days Are Our Productive Days

If it doesn’t matter what I do, then I don’t matter.

A while ago, after speaking to a group of construction CEO’s, I was followed by another speaker named Lou Briganti. He asked us to close our eyes and think of the last good day we had at work… where on the way home we said to ourselves, “That was good.” He asked us to think about what happened during that day that made us think and feel that way.

We then shared our situations out loud. Without exception, we all talked about some achievement we had or a difference we made. Somehow or other, each of us had been PRODUCTIVE. No one said it was a good day because he or she “took it easy” or “left early.”

That got me to thinking. Perhaps one of the keys to effective leadership (or even parenting for that matter) is to help people have more good days.

In fact, helping people have more good days may be critically important. According to Joyce Gioia, futurist and president of The Herman Group, a management consulting firm, “Recent studies indicate that 30 percent to 40 percent of the working population is unhappy in their jobs to the extent they have ‘checked out mentally and emotionally’.” Something needs to be done to re-energize our workforce.

That’s why I created my program entitled, “Staying Up In A Down World: 8 Keys To A Positive Work Environment.” In fact, after Postmaster Carol Ewing from New Jersey attended the program, she wrote, “Using your techniques, I have gotten so much more cooperation from my employees!” And Seth Ogh, a realtor with Thomlinson Black says, “Of all the classes in Real Estate, this is a ‘must attend’.”

For this “Tuesday Tip,” however, let me suggest 3 general principles that will help your people have more good days. I call them the “Care, Fair, and Dare Principles.” Let’s look at the Care principle today.


Unfortunately, too many people are good on talk but short on action. E. T. Thompson illustrates that when he tells the story of a man who walks into a cafe, leading a buffalo on a rope. The man places his shotgun on the counter, orders a cup of coffee, gulps it down, shoots the buffalo and leaves.

The same man returns the next morning with his gun and another buffalo. He says, “Coffee, please.”

The waitress replies, “We’re still cleaning up from yesterday. What was that all about, anyway?”

Smiling proudly, the man says, “I’m training for upper management. I come in, drink coffee, shoot the bull, leave a mess for others to clean up, and disappear for the rest of the day.”

Obviously, the man didn’t care or show much care. And the caring-productivity link is undeniable. Dr. Richard Curwin found that out. He asked hundreds of so-called “hopeless” or “at risk” kids… who turned into productive kids… who their favorite teacher was. He asked them why that teacher was their favorite. The most frequent response he heard? Their favorite teacher “believed in me.”

The same principle applies to the workplace. As author Max Lucado puts it, “The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern.”

So ask yourself, “Do you “believe” in your co-workers? Do you really “BELIEVE” in them? And if so, how do they KNOW you believe in them? How do you SHOW your caring?”

When your caring is obvious, it makes all the difference in the world. In fact two men illustrate the point quite well… two men you’d never guess. The first one you know as Lee Marvin, the one-time famous Hollywood movie star. He’s buried in a grave alongside 3 and 4 star generals at Arlington National Cemetery. His marker gives his name, rank (PVT), and service (USMC).

You might wonder why a Private, such a low-level service guy, was honored with a burial next to the high-level leaders. Was it merely because he was famous?

No, Lee Marvin served in the military during the time many Hollywood stars served their country in the armed forces. But most of the movie stars served in rear-echelon positions where they were carefully protected. They were simply trotted out to perform for the cameras in war bond promotions.

But Lee Marvin was a genuine hero. He won the Navy Cross at Iwo Jima. And there is only one higher Naval award… the Medal Of Honor. Despite his bravery, Marvin credited his Sergeant for showing more care and bravery than he ever would.

When he was on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, Johnny said, “Lee, I’ll bet a lot of people are unaware that you were a Marine in the initial landing at Iwo Jima, and that during the course of that action you earned the Navy Cross and were severely wounded.”

“Yeah, yeah… I got shot square in the a–, and they gave me the Cross for securing a hot spot about halfway up Suribachi. Bad thing about getting shot up on a mountain is guys gettin’ shot hauling you down.”

“But Johnny, at Iwo I served under the bravest man I ever knew. We both got the Cross the same day, but what he did for his Cross made mine look cheap in comparison. The dumb fool actually stood up on Red Beach and directed his troops to move forward, and that Sergeant and I have been lifelong friends.

“When they brought me off Suribachi, we passed the Sergeant and he lit a smoke and passed it to me lying on my belly on the litter and said, ‘Where’d they get you Lee?'”

“Well Bob, if you make it home before me, tell Mom to sell the outhouse!”

Lee Marvin continued, “Johnny, I’m not lying. Sergeant Keeshan was the bravest man I ever knew.”

That’s right. Bob Keeshan. You, I and the world know him as … Captain Kangaroo. And Captain Kangaroo did more than SAY he cared. He SHOWED he cared.

Now you might think that’s fine and dandy, but you don’t work in a war zone. Well, maybe not. But you still need to SHOW your caring in a way that impacts performance, loyalty, and motivation. So try this.


There are hundreds of ways to SHOW others that you care. In fact, I’ve outlined dozens of strategies in previous “Tuesday Tips.” But I’ve never added the condition of “positively memorable.” And that needs to be there as well.

First of all, the “positive” part. Some people inadvertently blow it. It may be the supervisor who tells his employee, “Good work on that new software installation, Bob. What took you so long?” It’s like getting a pat on the back and a kick in the rear at the same time. The overall effect is NOT positive.

Or it’s the CEO who praises her employees at an all-company meeting for achieving their sales and manufacturing goals for the year. Then she adds, “But don’t get too comfortable with your success, because next year I expect a 20% increase in productivity.” Again, the so-called “caring” praise is instantly deflated by a message that says… what you’ve accomplished isn’t good enough.

So take a look at the ways you express caring. And ask yourself if the overall impact of your expression is “positive.”

And then ask if it is “memorable.” Do your coworkers remember your various expressions of caring? Do your employees reflect back on your acts of caring, and do those acts continue to motivate them?

There are dozens of things you can do. Ken Blanchard, the author of “The One-Minute Manager,” recommends FREQUENT expression. In fact, his research indicates that you need to have 4 positive contacts for every single negative contact you have with an employee… to be perceived as a positive manager. And those contacts don’t have to be compliments. They could be as simple as a greeting in the morning or listening to a coworker share what happened with his son.

Zig Ziglar also recommends frequency. As he notes, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”

You could also do the UNUSUAL. For example, don’t use traditional bills when you give out small cash rewards for outstanding effort. In “Recognition, Gratitude, and Celebration,” Patrick Townsend says, “If you hand a team member a $20 bill as a gesture of gratitude, the emotional buzz lasts anywhere from 12 to 15 seconds. Then, the cash goes into a wallet and, effectively, disappears.” Instead, Townsend recommends giving the cash in two-dollar bills. The recipient will remember these came from you every time he spends one.

As I said in the beginning of today’s Tip, when employees have a good day, everybody wins. So it’s our job to help people have as many good days as possible. And that starts with the CARE principle.

Action:  Would your coworkers say you care about them? If so, what would they say you do to show your caring? If not, what do they need to see you doing?