Locomotivation with Thomas the Tank Engine

Created by the Rev. W.V. Awdry, Thomas the Tank Engine is a fictional anthropomorphic steam locomotive featured in the Railway Series books.

They tell the story of how the Fat Controller built his railway business. He was stern but kindly and encouraged his locomotives to be “really useful engines”.

Thomas, Gordon, Henry and Edward all pulled together making every effort to never let the passengers down.

Do you remember Thomas whooshing the words “I mustn’t be late, I mustn’t be late” as he puffed along his branch line?

And how often did the Fat Controller have a meeting in the engine shed where not only did he tell his engines what displeased him, but more often than not he praised them for their attitude and performance? He communicated with them and kept them informed.

So what can you, as the Controller of a Lancashire business, do to get your team on board?

Given the right training most people can develop the skills and knowledge your business needs to succeed. That’s the easy part!

The real challenge in building a great team is making sure that every single one of your people has the right attitude:
• A positive ‘can–do’ attitude
• A ‘lets–do-it’ attitude
• A ‘we’ll-find–a–way’ attitude
• An ‘I’m–here-to-help’ attitude
• A `nothing-too-much-trouble’ attitude
• A ‘treat-others-as-you-want-to be-treated-yourself’ attitude
• A ‘let’s-get-it-right-first-time’ attitude

You can’t afford people with the wrong attitude to slow you down, damage your team spirit, damage your reputation or damage your customer relationships.

Research by the former DTI identified five paths to sustained success to get the best from your people:
1. Shared goals: everyone must know where the business is going.
2. Shared culture: everyone must understand and agree with its values.
3. Shared learning: everyone must be committed to learning and improving.
4. Shared effort: everyone works together as a team.
5. Shared information: everyone knows what is going on.

And the best way to start working together is to hold regular team meetings (remember the Fat Controller meeting Thomas and his Friends at the engine shed).

But the first step is to assess where you and your people are now by scoring each individual’s attitude, skills and knowledge. And anyone with low scores in every category should be invited to leave! Without the right ability or attitude they are a liability!

As a special offer to Lancashire Business View readers we are giving away a matrix based tool called “Building the Right Team” to help you to assess your people. Simply email me to request your copy.

Norman Snodgrass, senior director, Mayes Business Partnership.