Move Your Bus Summary5 min read

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Move Your Bus sheds some light on the different groups of members in an organization, be it a school or a company, and how leaders can inspire those different groups, as well as how individuals can move up and become more valuable to the organization they serve.

What if I told you that next Monday, you’d have to teach a class? But not just any class, a 4th grade class in one of the toughest schools in Harlem, New York City. A class that’s known for causing trouble, going through six teachers in three months and refusing to work with you.

How would you do it? How would you approach this problem? If your gut reaction is “How the hell am I supposed to know?!” then you know how Ron Clark felt in the late 90s, before taking on this exact challenge. For lack of a better idea, he just tried everything. Being strict. Being nice. Being open. Being honest. And eventually, it worked. He got through to the kids.

So much in fact, that their grades drastically increased and they ended up scoring higher than the school’s honor class in the state exam. Since 2007, he’s been inspiring and helping teachers and educators to make those kinds of changes in their own classrooms, running the non-profit Ron Clark Academy middle school in Atlanta, Georgia.

This is his fourth book, and it’s about recognizing the different groups of people in organizations and dealing with them accordingly.

Here are my 3 favorite lessons:

  • Have high expectations of people and make it possible for them to deliver.
  • Accept that different people perform on different levels.
  • Let go of your sense of entitlement, forever.

Ready to do what it takes to move the bus? Let’s learn how organizations move forward!

Lesson 1: High expectations are good, as long as it’s possible for people to deliver on them.

First of all, what’s this bus thing even about? “Moving your bus” is a metaphor Ron came up with, in order to teach organizations how they can make progress and what working together looks like.

Have you ever watched The Flintstones? It’s one of the most popular cartoon shows of all time, superseded only by The Simpsons. Because it’s set in the stone age, all cars and buses on the show work through footwork – only if all passengers run, the bus moves forward.

Organizations work the same way: everyone has a role to play, some bigger, some smaller, but only when all team members work together and give their best can you really move forward.

Even in elementary school classrooms, Ron has always believed in high expectations being a big part of that. Set the bar too low, and people won’t even bother trying. But when you set it high, you also have to clearly communicate what you expect from people and hold them accountable to it, so that they have a chance to deliver.

In a company that means managers should request specific outputs and encourage people to work in small doses. For example, a written, two-page report about last month’s sales performance within two days is a challenging, but clearly defined goal.

Lesson 2: Always remember that everyone performs at a different level, and work with people on an individual basis.

Having high expectations is good, but remember: what high expectations are is different for everyone. That two-page report might be an appropriate challenge for a junior sales manager, too easy for the head of sales and almost impossible to write for a call center agent.

Sticking with the bus metaphor, Ron defines five different groups in organizations:

The driver(s), who steers the bus and pushes everyone forward – these are usually the managers.

The runners, who are the top performers, work hard and always have great, creative input on how to move on.

The joggers, who are diligent and consistent workers, but only switch into high gear occasionally.

The walkers, who are still steady, but rather slow, don’t like change too much and sometimes slow the bus down.

The riders, who only run when someone’s watching them and otherwise use their intelligence to hide behind the crowd.

As you can see, the span of motivation levels, work ethic and performance level within these five groups is huge – so naturally, you’ll have to deal differently with all these groups – some of which might move up, others might move down, and some will eventually have to get off the bus altogether to get their butts into gear (looking at you, riders).

Lesson 3: Learn patience and don’t feel entitled to anything and you’ll thrive in meritocracy.

You might be a runner. Or you might be a walker and want to become one. But maybe you’re a driver already. I don’t know which group you’re in. But one lesson I’ve learned from this, which is valuable to remember, no matter which group you’re a part of, is this: let go of your sense of entitlement. Forever.

Because most of us are used to being in a consumerist environment, we often feel like we should get the promotion, the full bonus, the credit, the award, when we really know deep down that someone else worked harder for it.

But that’s not how meritocracy works. If you really want to thrive in a capitalist system (no matter whether you like the system itself or not), letting go of your entitlement mentality is the only right choice. Nobody owes you their attention, their money, let alone their recognition, and you sure don’t deserve an award just for showing up to work on time.

While you’re working towards your high expectations, let the current runners get their rewards, applaud them, and work on actually becoming more deserving of what you want. Only zero expectations and infinite patience lead to immediate results.

My personal take-aways

No matter how big the group of people you work with or in, this’ll force you to face some tough truths: the 80/20 principle is real. Whether that means 20 people are riders, or 200, there will always be those just floating along and it’s up to us to get them to move. Good read for both sides, employers and employees!

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