Business Relationship Principles

Zig Ziglar on

Here's a down-home story that teaches principles to help management build better relationships with their internal customers (employees).

When I was a young boy, my first solo work assignment was in the large garden that produced much of our food. I had to hoe three long rows of beans. My mother showed me how she wanted it done, and told me to call her when I finished. When she looked at my efforts, she shook her head and expressed her dissatisfaction with an old Mississippi colloquialism, "Son, you're going to have to lick this calf over." Translation: "Son, the job is unsatisfactory. You'll have to do it again." I responded, "I haven't been messin' with the calf, Mom. I've been hoeing these beans!" Her comment: "For most boys, Son, this would be perfectly all right. But you're not 'most boys.' You're my son, and my son can do better than this."

Lessons: First, she had instructed me on how she wanted me to hoe those beans. We knew exactly what our mother expected from us, and that was our best effort. We also knew she was going to inspect to make certain she got what she expected. Management makes a serious mistake when they do not tell their people that they always expect their best effort and they will "inspect" to be sure their expectations have been met.

My mother did not expect her children to be the best in the world at everything, but she did expect us to do our very best on each job. When the job was unsatisfactory, she let it be known that there were certain standards that we had to meet. To accept work that is less than the worker is capable of doing ultimately condemns that worker to substandard work, and that builds a low ceiling on his or her future.

It's important to note that my mother criticized the performance, but she actually praised the performer when she said, "My son can do better than this." I'm confident that my mother never heard the phrase, "Failure is an event, not a person." But what she was also saying was, "Son, you're a good boy. You did a lousy job this time, but I know you can do better." In the process, she showed me respect, and in today's job market, since 46 percent of the people who voluntarily leave their jobs do so because they do not feel respected and appreciated, this can have a huge economic bearing on the company's bottom line. The result of all of this is that while I was not excited about having to do the job over, I did feel good about myself, because it was only my performance that my mother criticized.


I learned that it was important to take pride in what I was doing and the way I was doing it. Second, I increased productivity. A rough estimate is that it would have taken me only 10 percent more time to do it right the first time. To do it over required at least 30 percent more time. Third, workers who are treated with respect and required to do a better job develop loyalty to the company, because they are growing, and people who grow stay longer.

Fourth, team spirit develops when each worker understands that what he or she does has a bearing on the stability of the company. Fifth, when the employer instructs employees how to do better, criticizing their unsatisfactory work but praising them personally, employees have the hope that they'll be able to move up in the company. Summation: This builds a strong working relationship that fosters loyalty, commitment and longevity, all of which improves the bottom line. In our hurry-hurry world, that's a major plus.


To find out more about Zig Ziglar and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at



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