This review was first published in the Oct. 13 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
By Ron Clark
To the runners go the spoils.
Picture your organization as a bus straight out of the Flintstones. Powering your Bedrock Express are four kinds of employees – runners, joggers, walkers and riders.
Runners are your high performers who consistently go above and beyond for the good of your organization. “Within every type of organization, it is the runners who provide the locomotion,” says Ron Clark, an award-winning teacher, author and consultant.
Joggers are solid, if unspectacular. They can pick up their game if needed but not at the same intensity or the same duration as runners.
Walkers mail it in. “They plod and stumble and don’t even keep up with the joggers,” says Clark. Walkers constantly criticize and complain in a bid to deflect attention away from their lackluster performance.
Riders are dead weight. “Riders do not care about the overall success of the organization. In fact, they don’t even care about their own personal success,” says Clark. The only thing riders bring to their job is a sense of entitlement.
Your leader drives the bus. To make the wheels on the bus go round and round, she needs to get the best from everyone on board.
If you want your bus to fly, focus first on your runners and allow them to shine. “Having runners maintain their speed is far more beneficial than having one rider drop her feet and begin to walk,” says Clark. “Instead of putting so much of our effort in rehabilitating our riders, perhaps we should throw all we have to our runners, for that is what truly moves the bus.”
Treat employees fairly but don’t treat them equally. “You all aren’t equal,” Clark would tell your employees. “Some are working much harder and contributing much more, and those are the individuals who deserve more.”
Giving the lion’s share of promotions, plum assignments, bonuses and perks to your runners can be a tough sell. What should you say to anyone who cries foul?
“If you grew up receiving a trophy just for playing on the team, let me give you a reality check,” says Clark. “That will not happen in the workplace. This is capitalism, not socialism. You have to do more than just show up to be rewarded. Please, be grateful for your job. Be thankful to be a part of a team. Work to earn actual recognition and praise because nothing is promised to you.”
Clark recommends cutting your runners some slack. They’re going to make mistakes. They’ll likely make more mistakes than all your joggers, walkers and riders combined because runners take on more work and tackle bigger challenges.
You can also make life easier for your runners by assigning low value grunt work to walkers and riders.
Coddle your joggers who lack a runner’s self-confidence. “Praise and recognition go a long way with joggers,” says Clark. “If you can give them that extra affirmation that they’re going in the right direction, they’re going to go faster.”
With walkers and riders, set clear expectations. “In some cases, if you can demonstrate a more effective way of doing things, a walker is going to move faster for you. Some of them probably have potential, while others may not. You have to weigh the effort it will take to get them to pick up their feet and then decide if your time and energy would be best used elsewhere.”
Clark offers practical advice for joggers, walkers and riders looking to join the ranks of runners. Strengthen your work ethic. Learn how to accept criticism. Listen more than you talk. Get to work and meetings early. Exude a sense of urgency. And lose the sense of entitlement.
“Every single person within an organization has a contribution to make,” says Clark. “It doesn’t matter what job you were hired to do – your contribution matters. You can always find a way to contribute at a higher level and do a better job, even if you were hired to clean the windshield or put air in the tires of the bus.”