By Barry Maher
"We keep hearing that some people see the glass as half empty,
others see it as half full. The person I want to be, the person
I want to hire, and the person who will be more successful and
more useful to his company, his society, his family, his friends,
his dog, his parakeet and himself is the person who isn't
concerned with whether the glass is half empty or half full, but
with figuring out what he has to do to fill the thing up."
-"From Filling the Glass: The Skeptic's Guide to Positive
Thinking in Business" by Barry Maher
Before one of my keynotes, an attendee who introduced
himself as Mr. Lansdorf asked me, "What can I do about working
for a corporation full of stiffs?" In spite of the fact that the
company paid quite well, Mr. Lansdorf's people never performed
the way he hoped they would when he hired them. His co-workers
weren't much better. As for his boss, "He couldn't care less
about my problems. He'd like to be able to forget about my whole
"So what exactly do you want?" I asked.
"What I'd like is for people to do the job they're
supposed to do--the way they're supposed to do it."
"Which means?" I asked.
"To do something beyond the minimum--to go the extra mile
for the company. Everybody expects something for nothing."
"Hey, I earn my money," Mr. Lansdorf insisted. "I go way
beyond the minimum."
"And it gets you?"
"Nothing, that's the point. It gets me nothing."
"So how long are you going to keep doing that?"
"Not much longer, believe me."
"But you want others to go beyond the minimum--without
putting something it in for them? Aren't you the one who's
expecting for something for nothing?"
"I want people to do what they should do."
"So what we're talking about is morality and ethics? What
people should do?"
"Exactly." he said.
"So as a manager, your ability to manage is based upon
people doing what they should do? Otherwise you can't get the
results you want?"
"No of course not. Nobody does what they should. At least
nobody in my company."
"So wouldn't you be better off trying to find a way to get
the results you need with the people you've got rather than the
perfect people who do what they should and apparently don't exist.
Or at least don't exist in your company?"
Obviously. Bingo! I thought. I felt like Socrates:
elucidating my point with just the right questions. Of course
later someone reminded me of the famous report given by a
third-grader: "Socrates was a Greek philosopher who went around
giving people advice. They poisoned him." So much for the Socratic
Obviously, Lansdorf said. If it was so obvious why had he
been asking his people to go the extra mile when there was really
no advantage in it for them? Even if they went along in order to
stay on his good side, how enthusiastic would they be?
You Can't Sell an Empty Glass
Why do we all so frequently act like Mr. Lansdorf? Trish
asks her boss to go out of his way for her and help get her
promoted. There's nothing in it for him. If anything, losing
Trish will make his job more difficult. He's a nice guy. He may
help her. But wouldn't he go along far more willingly if he was
doing it to gain another ally in management; or to earn points
with the company for having developed another manager; or to
free up Trish's spot so he can reward - and keep from losing -
that great new talent he's been grooming on the rung below hers.
It's obvious: you can't sell anybody anything if you
don't offer them some benefit. You can't motivate anyone by
offering them an empty glass. It's obvious - and we all forget it.
Constantly. We hope ethics or morality or religion or character
will make up for the lack of incentive.
Does your idea of character tell you that when there's
little or nothing in it for you that you should devote yourself
unstintingly to providing for someone else's welfare? If so
please call, I've got a job for you.
Tip: If I believe that playing by your rules, systems,
procedures, traditions or morality guarantees that I'm going to
lose, do not expect me to play by them.
Bosses who tell you they can't hire good workers are
usually telling you they're poor bosses. They're telling you
they aren't providing sufficient incentive for people to meet
their standards. Or if they have provided the incentive, they
haven't provided sufficient nuts and bolts, real-world
training and direction, leaving their people wanting to climb
the mountain but without a clear enough trail to follow. To
mix metaphors a bit, they aren't adding enough water to the
Adapted from "Filling the Glass: The Skeptic's Guide to Positive
Thinking in Business" by Barry Maher (Dearborn Trade Publishing,
2001). Copyright 2001, Barry Maher. Used by permission.
Barry Maher consults, writes and speaks on professional
development, motivation, management and sales. This article is
adapted from his book, "Filling the Glass: The Skeptic's Guide
to Positive Thinking in Business" which Today's Librarian
recently cited as "[One of] The Seven Essential Popular Business
Books." You can sign up for his free email newsletter at
www.barrymaher.com or contact him at 805 962-2599 or