Reported and written by Vicki Meade
32-page conference report published by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Bethesda, MD


Leadership for a Re-engineered Work Force

Richard Ruhe, Ph.D., Consultant, Blanchard Training and Development, Escondido, CA

Vision statements—those things written on plaques—are not enough to motivate employees, pointed out Richard Ruhe in his lively, interactive keynote address. People need to be in charge of specific goals and must feel that their thoughts and ideas are listened to, respected, and acted upon.

Leaders who are successful, said Ruhe, know how to observe like a visitor, think like a customer, and act like an owner. They understand that workers want to be productive and that the following conditions must be in place for workers to have the greatest sense of productivity:

  1. Clear objectives are set,
  2. The worker is able to concentrate intensely on the task at hand,
  3. There’s a lack of interruption,
  4. The worker receives clear, fast feedback,
  5. There is a sense of challenge—the task is neither too easy nor impossible, and
  6. The task requires some effort.

Ruhe put forth three principles, or “secrets,” of motivating staff, using animal metaphors that illustrate their underlying meaning.

  • Secret one: The Spirit of the Squirrel. Work must be worthwhile. Squirrels work so hard to gather nuts because if they don’t, they will die. The purpose of the work is understood by everyone, and all work toward a shared goal.
  • Secret two: The Way of the Beaver. Beavers build dams speedily because they are in control, they determine the outcome. It’s important for each person to feel that his or her contribution is important. “In any industry, 65% of ideas to improve operations come from the floor, from people doing the job,” Ruhe pointed out. The workers are the ones who can see how to do a job better or more quickly, and therefore their ideas should be respected.
  • Secret three: The Gift of the Goose. It’s important to cheer the team on with thanks and congratulations. However, the appreciation must be delivered in a way that is meaningful and specific. A boss who makes a general announcement at the company picnic saying, Thank you all for doing a wonderful job this year, does little to motivate staff. People who perform at a high level should be told specifically what they’ve done so that the congratulations has validity.