From Issue: 868 [Read full issue]
Charles Schwab, president of U.S. Steel and the highest-paid executive of his time, understood how to motivate men. When one of his mills wasn't producing its quota, he went to the mill manager and addressed him personally:
"How is it," Schwab asked, "that a man as capable as you can't make this mill turn out what it should?"
"I don't know," the man replied, "I've coaxed the men; I've pushed them; I've sworn and cussed; I've threatened them with damnation and being fired. But nothing works. They just won't produce."
"Give me a piece of chalk," Schwab said. Then, turning to the nearest man: "How many heats did your shift make today?"
"Without another word, Schwab chalked a big figure six on the floor, and walked away. When the night shift came in, they saw the '6' and asked what it meant. 'The big boss was in here today,' the day men said. 'He asked us how many heats we made, and we told him six. He chalked it on the floor.'
"The next morning Schwab walked through the mill again. The night shift had rubbed out '6,' and replaced it with a big '7.'
"When the day shift reported for work the next morning, they saw a big '7' chalked on the floor. So the night shift thought they were better than the day shift, did they? Well, they would show the nightshift a thing or two. They pitched in with enthusiasm and when they quit that night, they left behind them an enormous, swaggering '10.' Things were stepping up..."
If you're looking to motivate those around you, throw down a challenge.
"How to Win Friends and Influence People" - Dale Carnegie, pp. 238-240