Light The Fire in Your Employees

Posted by Corey Smith on Sep 28, 2023 9:06:00 AM

Log Cabin Fire

For years, I've been a scoutmaster. I've taken the opportunity to teach youth how to build fires more times than I can ever count. When you are building and maintaining a fire, you need three key elements: fuel, heat, and oxygen. As easy as it is to start a forest fire, when you are learning how to make it work it's harder than you think. If your heat is too low, you need more oxygen. If your fuel is too wet, you need more heat.

A few years ago, I went camping with my son. We had a fire that had been burnt out for a few hours after using it in the morning. It seemed cold and there was no smoke at all. I figured I'd make my evening easier and just stack my firewood in preparation for the cooking fire, even though I knew I wouldn't need it until dinner time.

It was only a few minutes later that one of the logs that was buried in the ash started to smoke and quickly caught fire. Seems that in setting up the log cabin I introduced enough oxygen deep into the pile of ashes to reignite the fire.

Since I didn't want to start my cooking fire that soon, I poured a bunch of water over all the wood. I figured that pouring that water over it would stop the fire from reigniting.

A short while later, I thought it would be fun to conduct a little experiment to see if we could start a cooking fire without a new ignition source. We wondered if there were enough embers down beneath that we could use.

When we were ready, we piled a whole mess of dry pine needles in and around the log cabin. It couldn't have been more than about five minutes before one little spot started smoking. That was pretty cool, but I wanted to see how much time it would take for the fire to start on its own.

In just about 20 minutes, the smoke was very pronounced. Every so often, the wind would pick up and the smoke would increase. When my ADD kicked in, I decided to help it along by blowing on a smoldering spot a little. Within about 30 seconds of my blowing the fire was burning, and 30 seconds after that the log cabin was completely engulfed. 

It really didn't take much work at all. With very little effort, I was able to get the fire going.

You might think this is a story about you being the only one that can prevent forest fires. While that is a good lesson, this is really about lighting the fire of excitement in your employees.

When I hire people, I look at their attitude and their ability to grow and learn. I look for potential. I look for competency. I look for people who will help the team be better. Sure, we need people who are at a certain level of skill, but teaching skill is a whole lot easier than teaching a positive attitude. I want people who will learn more while they are working for me. I want them to continue to bring more to the table than they already have.

I am looking for the burning ember. The ember that, if I provide the right fuel (resources, opportunity, etc.), and properly fan the flame (encouragement, training, etc.), can make a raging fire.

Each of us has that ember. Each of us has that little spark. It takes work to build it into a fire. When we get that fire burning, we can do amazing things.

As a leader, I challenge you to make it your responsibility to spark that fire in your employees. 

Oh, and only you can prevent forest fires.

Corey Smith

Written by Corey Smith

Corey Smith is the founder of Tribute Media and serves as the Managing Director for Tribute Media. He is also the VP of Web & Creative for Hawke Media.