Give Your Employees Everything You Can

21 Jun

Abraham-Lincoln-Statue-in-Lincoln-Memorial-Washington-D-C-PostersIF YOU PROVIDE WELL FOR PEOPLE, THEY CAN GIVE YOU THEIR BEST EFFORTS.

This was the situation in August 1864:  Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee were embroiled in a bloody war of attrition in Northern Virginia, General William Tecumseh Sherman was in a stalemate outside of Atlanta, and Democrats were hammering away at a message that the war had become about slavery and that there was no end in sight – openly advocating settling with the Confederacy.

If Lincoln was not reelected, peace would’ve been sought by a would-be President George McClellan at almost any price.

Worse, the astute political advisor, Thurlow Weed, broke the news to the President that there would be no way he was going to be reelected that November.

Yet, Abraham Lincoln was about to reap from the seeds he had sown in the first years of his administration.

The people who worked for Lincoln felt that they had almost everything they needed to be successful.

He had given his cabinet members free reign over their departments with very little or no interference from the boss.

He had given Generals Grant and Sherman deference to their expertise as successful fighting military leaders.

He had given the soldiers and the sailors compassion, empathy, warm blankets, good equipment, and regular food – things their opposition didn’t always have.

In addition, Lincoln loved the troops; visiting them often in their camps; writing personal letters to wives, mothers, fathers, and children of fallen soldiers; paying tribute to them in every way possible, especially at Gettysburg:

”The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have, thus far, so nobly advanced.”—Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.

Lincoln didn’t do what he did for the soldiers for votes; he did it because he realized they were fighting his battles; they were an extension of him doing the dirty work that must be done; and he deeply appreciated that.

In return, they loved him back, even referring to him as “Father Abraham.”

In the election of 1864 against their much beloved former General McClellan, Lincoln carried 70% of the vote among soldiers in the Army of the Potomac and 80% in the Army of the West.

The soldiers’ votes were not the deciding factor in the contest, but they speak volumes about how people react when treated with respect, kindness, and even love.

The factors that did decide the election of 1864, however, were three-fold:  Sherman captured Atlanta in September, Grant wasn’t losing, and Lincoln’s cabinet members campaigned vigorously for him.

The entire executive branch, two excellent generals, and thousands of loyal, dedicated soldiers were operating at full-speed precisely because Lincoln had put them in these positions, giving them a great chance to succeed; backing them with all the resources his administration could muster.

The results?

  • The first un-fixed election ever held by a free people during a domestic war went to the incumbent.
  • Lincoln’s re-election meant there would be no negotiation with the Confederacy, practically ensuring the abolition of slavery and the reunion of the United States.
  • Sherman’s capture of Atlanta disabled the South economically and militarily.

The lesson?

Give freely of yourself to as many as you care about.  Support those doing the deeds of your mission wholeheartedly with all the resources you can possibly provide.  The day may come when you reap what you have sown.

For more on giving your subordinates everything you’ve got, see “Building a Culture of Employee Appreciation” by Nadine Heintz at


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