During one of my speaking engagements, I used an analogy about a bus to communicate a point about accelerating change within an organization. I did not know at the time that this simple way of looking at an organization would shape my approach to running the Ron Clark Academy, with an eye toward getting the best results possible from my faculty and staff. As I developed the concept further, I saw how much it resonated with my audiences. It is now helping to accelerate change at companies large and small, and I think it can help you, too.
So let me explain the basics. We’re going to allow this bus to represent your business. More specifically, it represents the goals and achievements you hope to reach as an organization. Depending on your personal circumstances, the bus could be a corporation, a small business, a sports team, your family, or even a school.
Now, the bus has no gas tank and no gas, because your organization is going nowhere without the people on your team to act as energy and fuel. So imagine that we are going to cut holes in the floorboards and move the bus ourselves, with our own efforts, just like Fred Flintstone did. In other words, the movement of your organization toward its goals depends entirely on the people who are on the team. And that includes YOU. If everyone is performing at the top of his game, success is imminent.
But of course, not everyone is working at the same level when it comes to moving the bus. In every organization, there are different styles of workers, which I mentally categorize by the amount of energy they expend. I think of them as Runners, Joggers, Walkers, Riders, and Drivers. The Runners are the top performers, the people who really lend their muscle to moving the bus. Joggers are conscientious workers who do a good job but are not at the same level as Runners. Walkers contribute less forward momentum than the others, and Riders are essentially dead weight. We’ll learn more about the habits and behaviors of each of them in chapter 1, and you’ll be able to determine which style you currently fit into, based on how you contribute to your organization.
Who are you?
• You may be a former Runner who has burned out and is just coasting on the memories of how great you used to be.
• You may be a Walker who wants to run but can’t because you are so darn exhausted. The energy to do more just isn’t there anymore.
• You may be a potential Runner who is stuck in a situation with a boss who walks and doesn’t value your worth to the organization.
• You may be a Rider who wants to be better but has no idea how to begin to walk, much less run.
• You may be a Runner who has looked around and realized that there is a new, younger crop of Runners who seem to be accelerating with turbo boosters that make your run look like a trot.
• You may be a wonderful person who has had horrible things happen to you in your personal life and who feels like the will to run has gone.
• You may even feel as if you have fallen off the bus and been run over by it. For example, you might have received a decrease in pay, added assignments with no compensation or signs of appreciation, or an unwelcome change in your job description (such as, in the case of an educator, a new grade or subject that you will have to teach).
In some of the cases above, you may be less concerned with running than with just getting through the day. I feel you. There have been mornings when I woke up to the alarm clock and felt like there was a ton of bricks holding me down. The thought of getting up and going through the motions of the day was too much to bear.
Remember, I teach in the classroom all day, in addition to acting as the administrator of both the school itself and the educator training program that welcomes hundreds of teachers a week into our building. I have to raise millions of dollars a year to keep our doors open, manage parent and board relations, and deal with the daily “unexpected crazy” that tends to place itself dead-and-center in my path. So sometimes, I wake up thinking I just can’t do it today. Sometimes it’s even worse, and I wake up thinking I never want to teach again in my life. But you know, my name is on the building. How can I escape that?
Realizing there is no way out, I pull myself up and head to the shower. I rub Zest soap under my nose and let it sit there. Now, I am not sure if that is healthy or not, but it sure wakes me up. I drive to work and walk into the school building, willing myself to make each step. And as I walk into the building, something always hits me. It’s the feeling that keeps me going and that pushes me daily, and I think I want to be part of something special!
In the parable of the bus, I am the Driver, and I want to steer my team toward something strong and lasting. I want to make a big difference in the world, to inspire others to reach goals that are meaningful and important. The bus has changed the way I think about work and life—and I promise you it can change your mind-set and your life as well.