2016-02-09

When you need an employee to go “the extra mile”

Bruce Tulgan

Managers ask me, “What about the employee who does just enough work and does it just well enough and nothing else? How do you motivate that person to go the extra mile?”


I was having this very conversation with a restaurant manager (I’ll call him “Res”) who was complaining about a busboy not going the extra mile.


I asked Res, “Are you sure you want that busboy taking initiative all the time? What if, for instance, the busboy thought a nice way to ‘go the extra mile’ was to give customers back massages while they dine? Or if he decided it would be nice to give customers free sodas?” Take a step back, do you really want to teach employees to ‘take initiative’ by getting them to focus on doing things that are precisely not expected?


Here’s what Res and I worked out: An “extra-mile-list” for busboys. What would be all the ways that a busboy, doing his job as best he can, could take those extra moments in between his other tasks and add some real value by doing something above and beyond? The list mostly included “area patrols” – like the salad bar. But there were other items on the list too. And Res made an “extra-mile-list” for waiters, kitchen staff, and greeters. He rolled it out to the team and they ran with it. Res worked with every team to develop an “extra mile” list. Then Res and his assistant managers started including “extra-mile-ism” in their regular coaching. They made it fun and attached prizes and rewards for “excessive extra-mile-ism.” Within just a few weeks, Res sent me an email saying, “Everyone is caught up in ‘extra-mile-ism’ – trying to outdo each other. We are climbing over each other to do more. It’s a big win.”


Instead of wishing for employees to meet a bunch of unspoken expectations, let people know exactly what it would look like for them to “go the extra mile” in their particular roles.


Start talking about going the “extra mile” in your regular one-on-one dialogues:

  1. Make an “extra mile” list for yourself. What would it look like for you to go the extra mile in your role? After you do your job very well, very fast, all day long. In those extra moments. What are some extra ways you can add value? This will give you a bit of perspective.
  2. Ask every one of your direct reports to make an “extra mile” list for himself.
  3. Review each employee’s “extra mile” list. Perhaps talking through it together you will both learn a few things. Sometimes managers are surprised to find that items on the employee’s “extra mile” list would have been on the manager’s list of basic performance expectations.
  4. Encourage employees to “keep score” for themselves on how often they complete items on the “extra mile” list. Take note of those who do and those who don’t score a lot of “extra mile points.” For those who do, provide recognition, reinforcement, and rewards whenever you can. For those who don’t, ask once in a while, “Why not?”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), , and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007). He has written for the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Bruce can be reached by e-mail at brucet@rainmakerthinking.com, you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website www.rainmakerthinking.com.

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