Turn Rocks Into Gold By Inspiring Your People

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Your workforce is like a mountain. All of your people contain rich veins of valuable gold within them, as well as tons of rock and dirt that are worthless to your company. The gold I’m talking about is the discretionary effort of your people. It’s the gap between what they are capable of doing (if they wanted to) and their bare minimum. The benefits of tapping into the discretionary effort of employees are countless and include increased productivity, employee retention, and profitability.

To extract this gold requires excellent leadership and company culture.

Gallup consistently reports that only 30% of employees are engaged (enthusiastic, committed to their work); while 50% are not engaged (checked out, going through the motions), and 20% are actively disengaged (unhappy, undermine progress, spread discontent). As a result, the lost productivity is costing us $450 billion annually.


Don’t be afraid to break the mold to make your company better because let’s face it—the mold sucks.

the mold sucks

An engaged, productive workforce is paramount to business success. You can’t just simply demand engagement from people and truly ever get it. Only exceptional workplace culture and leadership can tap into that gold that inspires people to give it their best. Poor leadership and toxic culture is guaranteed to elicit the bare minimum effort from your employees.

There are many ways to improve workplace culture and be a great leader. Here are a couple nuggets for you to pour over:


Make people feel valued.

Make it a point to publicly praise your teams, their accomplishments, and extra effort. Take people aside to appreciate them to their face and let them know their value. When people feel valued they become more valuable. The opposite is also true. Never criticize your people or teams in front of their peers and colleagues. Ever. Shame is not motivation, it’s bullying. Save criticism and talk of improvement for one-on-ones. Another highly important way to make people feel valued is to gather feedback from them. Investigate what their employee experience is, and don't just ask do something about what you hear to prove that you actually care. A trick to avoid guessing if your people feel valued is to ask them if they do, and how you can do better.


Dedicate time for people to play together.

Massively important. Click here to learn why, and for some great ideas on how to implement play.

celebrate your employees

Get rid of toxic people.

People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers and coworkers that they can’t stand. Release bad people and replace them with better ones. Toxic employees aren’t giving you rocks and dirt, they are cave-ins that crush your profits and other employees. They’ve got to go. You know who they are, just do it. Ask yourself: If this person didn’t already work for me, and I knew what I know about them, would I bring them on right now? Have the courage to let them go for the sake of your company and other employees. You’re losing good people by keeping bad ones.


Focus on rewarding excellent results and effort, instead of punishing negative behavior.

Create rewards that motivate and are based on results. Inspire people to work hard and make it worth it. Ask what motivates them; don’t guess. Long weekends, bonuses, shave your head if they hit their goals, whatever. Be flexible and break away from the norm. Your job is to bring the best out of your people, so do whatever it takes to make that happen. Motivating and inspiring employees to tap into their best is true leadership. Policing if people were actually clocked in for exactly 8 hours is a waste of energy. If you manage people to the lowest common denominator, that’s all you’ll get.


Read a book, or ten.

Every bookstore has entire sections devoted to business leadership full of excellent ideas and strategies. Read one, have employees read it too, ask for feedback, ask for suggestions. Give employees a sense of ownership and prove that you care about being a better company.

If you want your company to be exceptional, then prioritize the experience of your people to engage and inspire them. Their discretionary effort is your company’s most valuable resource and it’s yours if you know how to mine it. Great companies and leaders understand the massive value of getting the most out of their people. There’s gold in them hills, go get it.