Jennifer Miller
By Jennifer Miller on November 03, 2022

Are You A Tractor?

A colleague of mine one time told me “My goal for the year is to be a tractor. I want to clear all of the rocks and unnecessary mess, and give my team wide-open spaces for them to run.” She then proceeded to hand out tractors to her team so they could keep her accountable for this. I loved this visual so much because of two things…

1. Focus. She was making her focus on supporting her team. Instead of living with them in the weeds trying to trudge through, she was clearing out the chaos so they could run. Rolling your sleeves up and jumping in with your team is important to support them, but what if instead of being in it you helped remove the chaos and let them shine?

2. Accountability. She didn’t just want this to be a story or analogy she shared with her team for a one-time feel-good moment. She wanted them to keep her accountable and remember her role. The visual made it an easy conversation and reminder in 1:1s, team meetings, etc. - “Am I being a tractor for you?” “I feel like right now I need a tractor to help move this.” Communication and accountability opened up for the team and it was pretty fun to see. They had a common language to be able to ask for help.

Supporting your team is often unique depending on the personality makeup. Discovering the uniqueness and approach of each person is pretty key to knowing how to support them best. Tools like Strengthfinder, CultureIndex, DiSC, etc. are excellent resources to start the process (I’m sure you’ve taken at least one of these!). These aren’t intended to be one-time conversational items, but something you leverage as a lens while navigating each day with your team.

“Our foibles are what make us endearing. Our irregularities are what make us unique. Our human imperfections are what make us beautiful. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to be better. But there is a huge difference between aspiring to be our best selves and claiming to be perfect. One is a journey of fulfillment. The other is a lie we tell ourselves and others. Good leaders know that their people will only truly thrive not when they are pushed to be perfect but when they are encouraged to be their natural best. - Simon Sinek

Being a tractor for one team member might look very different than the next. Knowing your team’s motivation to help them be their “natural best” can be challenging for a leader because someone else’s approach will likely look different than yours.

When was the last time you got really excited about something you accomplished? Not just because it was on your list to do or because someone asked you to do it, but because you just really enjoyed it? 

Hold that feeling. What if you were able to empower your team to be able to run from one fulfilling and motivating thing to another? A fun part of a team is that each person can uniquely make an impact. What can we do to not just “get things done”, but to really soak it in, see the wins, and let each other grow?

The focus might become less on how someone gets things done, but more importantly, the unique approach they have getting there. Things might not happen how you expect, but sometimes the unexpected is a beautiful thing.

“The bottom line is: Don’t rely on outdated methods and tricks to motivate employees. Talk with your team about the relevance of the work they do every day. Be proactive in identifying and solving problems for your employees. Recognize employee contributions in specific, meaningful ways on a regular basis. Connect with your own motivation, and share it freely with your team. Put away the carrots and sticks and have meaningful conversations instead. You’ll be well on your way to leading a highly motivated team.” - Lisa Lai, Motivating Employees HBR Article 

Ready to be a tractor for your team?

Published by Jennifer Miller November 3, 2022
Jennifer Miller