“You’re going to be working nights. You’re going to be working weekends to get this done,” Maxim’s CEO, Jack Gifford, said to the heads of the various business units of the company.
Gifford had come up with a cleaver marketing idea, and he wanted it implemented in a month instead of the three months it should take. At the time, our revenue was $200 million per year on the way to over $1 billion per yer.
Gifford recognized that the assignment would require extra effort to get done, so he decided to go the intimidation route.
I happened to be sitting next to Dave, who was running the power management group. Dave looked at me and quipped, “I’m already working nights and weekends. What else does he (Gifford) expect me to do.”
I nodded my head in agreement, laughed sarcastically, and said, “Me too.”
How you will inspire your employees to exert extra effort will depend upon your style and company culture.
Gifford liked to say he managed through a combination of “fear and greed.” The reality was his management approach was much more nuanced.
For example, the best piece of management advice he gave me was, “You need to understand when to put on the gas and when to apply the brakes.” In other words, you can’t just run your team into the ground.
However, this particular assignment was important, so he was sending us a message there would be no excuses. We had to get this done on time or there would be consequences.
No one was going to defy Gifford on a critical project like this. Magically, we all found a way to get the project done on schedule.
A large part of the reason you’ll be able to inspire your team to exert extra effort is if you hire the right people.
So why was Gifford successful with this and other efforts? To start, Gifford and Maxim’s management team were very selective in the people the company hired.
There were two things we were looking for in every employee we added. The first thing we looked for was excellence, or the potential for excellence if the person was young, in their area of expertise. The second thing we looked for was fit with our company culture.
We wanted people that worked well together. And, by definition, we didn’t want any brilliant jerks.
You need to decide what you want in your team. I would suggest a combination of integrity, smarts, passion for what your company does, and fitting into your company culture.
Your company culture always plays a huge part in your ability to get your team to exert extra effort.
Speaking of company culture, if you’re thinking we were singing kumbaya together in perfect harmony, well that wasn’t exactly the case. Maxim’s culture was not for the faint of heart.
You were expected to fight for what you believed in. And, fight we did! As I said, it was not for the faint of heart.
We screamed at each other. We yelled at each other, and we got angry with each other too.
Then, we came together and agreed on the direction we would take. Everyone, even the people that didn’t win the fight, felt they had been heard.
I’m not recommending you try and replicate this extreme of a company culture. It worked for us because we all bought into the culture. I am saying that you need a strong company culture, one that supports your great team, to get your team to do extraordinary things.
When I started my own company, I took the things I liked from my experience at Maxim, and I threw away the things I didn’t like at Maxim. Most importantly, I realized I needed to be true to myself, not to clone the ghost of Jack Gifford.
You need to lead by example to get your team to do extraordinary things.
The bottom line is you, the CEO, need to set the example for your team to follow. And you need to start setting this example today.
Jack Gifford had a ton of credibility with his team by the time he asked us to implement something on an accelerated schedule. At the end of the day, that’s why we succeeded; we didn’t want to let him down.
I never asked him about this, but I’m certain he would have said that success on this project, and other similar projects, was due to the careful selection of the team, and the culture that was built to support the team.
That’s your takeaway; walk the walk and talk the talk. Then find other really smart people that want to walk the same walk with you. You’ll find you will accomplish extraordinary things together with your great team.