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Bring in the 20-mule team
By Harvey Mackay
An old farmer had been plowing with an ox and a mule teamed together. One
day, the ox said to the mule, "Let's play sick today and take it
But the mule said, "No, we need to get our work done."
The ox played sick anyway and the farmer brought it fresh hay and
corn and tried to make it comfortable.
When the mule came in from plowing that day, the ox asked how it
went. "We didn't get quite as much done," the mule said, "But we did
a fair stretch."
Then the ox asked, "What did the farmer say about me?"
"Nothing," the mule replied.
Thinking he had a good thing going, the ox decided to play sick
again the next day. When the mule returned from the field, the ox
asked, "How did it go today?"
"All right," the mule said, "but we didn't get much done."
"Well," the ox continued, "what did the farmer say about me?"
"Nothing to me," the mule answered, "but he did stop and have a long
talk with the butcher."
You've probably worked with an ox at some point in your career. They
don't start out lazy; they just get bored . . . burned out . . .
comfortable enough to take advantage of the company's absence policy
to the point where their coworkers are stuck picking up the slack
and working harder than they should. And make no mistake, the
coworkers know the score. No doubt they know the butcher, too.
And if you think the mules in your company are the clock-punching,
grunt-work drones who sit in generic cubicles, I've got news for
you. Everybody from the president on down needs to think like the
mule. Being there counts for something. Accepting responsibility
counts for more.
Companies need dependable, committed employees who can talk
themselves into getting the job done even when they don't feel like
working. Some employees use all kinds of tricks: check out the new
car in the driveway and think about the next payment . . . imagine
the next promotion and the corner office that goes with it. . .
calculate the expected cost of college tuition for the rugrats at
home. A little reality check is a good start. But payday shouldn't
be your chief motivation.
The real pros know how to motivate themselves before they start
having bad days. They look at work differently, not just as a means
of making a living, but as a significant part of a quality life.
Their particular mix of attitude, responsibility, cooperation and
accomplishment make them a valuable commodity in any organization.
Joan is a busy realtor with an active family who also manages to
organize a sizable silent auction for her church and spends time
helping at her kids' school as well. Joan's willingness to get the
job done, no matter what the job happens to be, has earned her the
respect and awe of everyone who has ever worked with her. Does she
have boundless energy? No. She's not even a "morning person." Her
secret? "I have exactly twenty-four hours to make life better than
it was yesterday." Joan would probably laugh if I told her she was a
Mules, by the way, like their jobs and perform well as a result. If
they find themselves getting in a rut, they stubbornly haul
themselves out. That quiet determination is a huge asset in
business. The ability to get over the bumps is frequently the
difference between success and chapter 11.
The mules -- the steady, willing, get-the-job-done employees -- are
worth their weight in gold. Don't confuse the reliable, day-in,
day-out dependability with a lack of creativity. It's usually the
mules, the folks who are there, who find creative solutions to
everyday problems. They know how things work.
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