Work Made Fun Gets Done

Work Made Fun Gets DoneIn his timeless classic “How To Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie tells the story of the president of steel company who pays a visit on the worst performing steel mill in the company.

Now he could have yelled and screamed and threatened to fire every employee unless they ramped up production and fast. But he didn’t

He could have stood in front of them and appealed in soaring eloquence to their higher nature, patriotism, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and momma. But he didn’t.

And he could have offered raises, bonuses, trips to Cancun, extra vacation days, oriental massages and steak dinners if they would just, for the love of God, raise production. He didn’t do that either.

What he did do was quietly walk over to the foreman of the day shift, which was just coming to an end, and asks “How many batches did you guys heat today?”

“Six,” says the foreman.

Then the president, one of the richest, most powerful men in America at the time borrows a pieces of chalk, gets down on the floor and draws a huge number 6 right in the middle of the floor. Gets up and walks out without saying a word.

When the night shift comes in a few minutes later, the first thing they want to know is why there’s a giant 6 on the floor. And the day shift guys tells them.

“You won’t believe this. The big boss man was in here today in his suit and tie, stove top hat and monocle glasses asking how many batches we heated today and then gets down on his hands and knees and draws the number on the floor. That dude’s crazy.”

Then the night shift gets to work and all night they’re staring at that big 6, not wanting to be outdone, so they work a little harder, spend a little less time doing whatever steel workers did at the turn of the last century to waste time when the bosses weren’t looking and when the day shift comes in the next morning, there on the middle of the mill floor they find a giant number 7.

And it was on.

Soon the mill was cranking out 10 or more batches of steel per shift, doubling production and taking themselves from worst to first in the entire company.


Because instead of prodding, pandering or bribing, the big boss man threw down a challenge, offered up a little friendly competition. Because…


It’s the reason behind the entire new fitness tracking industry, the little doodads and doohickeys that track how many steps you take each day, how many calories you burn, how many miles you walk or run. And then, most importantly, posts them on the twitter so you can compare yourself to your friends. A little friendly competition.

It’s why car dealerships have gongs and bells and buzzers that sound every time someone makes a sale. And why they have sales boards in the back that show how many cars each and every salesperson has sold so far that month. Not for the bonus money, but for the competition.

It’s why there’s even such a thing as Klout. So people like me who spend way too much time on the internet can turn all of our pictures of grumpy cats and Zig Ziglar quotes into a little game to see how much we can raise our score and compare it to our friends.

It’s why we keep score.

To throw down a challenge.

So the next time you’re about to scream at an employee, your spouse or your kids.

The next time you’re about to try cajoling, begging, pleading, bribing or threatening someone to get something done, instead try to figure out a way to make a little game of it. Stimulate a little friendly competition. Throw down a challenge and let human nature do the heavy lifting.


Terry LancasterTerry Lancaster is the VP of Making S#!% Happen at Instant Events Automotive Advertising, father of 3 teenage daughters and a Beer League Hockey All Star, as if there could ever be such a thing.

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