The How To Issue

How to Motivate People: Rahm Emanuel


How to Motivate People: Rahm Emanuel

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You have to know the people you work with. Some respond more to encouragement. Some respond better to competitiveness. Some of them need encouragement, enticement, and a little bit of pushing. Sometimes you cajole them. Sometimes you use humor. Sometimes—I don’t want to say scream at them—but you have to be … forceful. I always say: “Who owns this?” I don’t want a committee. I just want to find who is responsible for seeing something through the process. I have an open-door policy, but I tell people, “Don’t come in here and dump a problem. I have a whole desk full of those. Bring a set of solutions. I’ll help you figure out the trade-offs and the politics involved. Then we’ll make a decision together.” Of course, none of this works if people don’t trust you. They have to know that if they take risks, you’ve got their back. You can’t ask people to work crazy hours and then tell them, “I’m going home, but you have to stick around.” When you work in the White House or in Chicago city government, it gets pretty stressful. These jobs don’t end at 6 p.m. They just keep going. You have to reward people, too. When I became mayor, we had a terrible problem with absenteeism in the sanitation departments. I was pretty steamed. I sent a pretty stern letter telling everybody that I wanted the taxpayers to get their money’s worth. But when the guys cleared the streets early after a big snowstorm, I paid a visit to their headquarters and thanked them. They also got a nice e-mail from me. — As told to Devin Leonard

Emanuel is the mayor of Chicago.

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