“Move Your Bus” by Ron Clark

Move Your Bus

Imagine that your company is a bus. The bus has no tank and no gas, because it is powered entirely by the people who are the team – including you.

Look around and you’ll find that there are five kinds of people on the bus: Runners, Joggers, Walkers, Riders, and Drivers. The Runners are the top performers. The Joggers are the conscientious workers. The Walkers are low contributors who need motivation. The Riders are people who are dead weight and should be kicked off the bus. The Drivers are the leaders who have a vision of where the bus is going.

This is the way that author, educator, and Ron Clark Academy (RCA) founder Ron Clark envisions his organization in “Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life” (2015). He uses the analogy of a bus, as well as stories and parables about RCA teachers and staff, to teach methods of inspiring people and fostering a culture of excellence at every level, whether your company is a school, business, or non-profit. It is based on the belief that “we all face the same high-stakes challenges” in every business sector and organization.

While it’s not a perfect analogy, the designations of Runners, Joggers, Walkers, and Riders really work. They are a helpful and informal way to gear projects and rewards to different team members. At times, it’s a little simplistic; people fluctuate between designations, depending on what is going on in the company and in their lives. Realistically, most people can’t be a Runner every day without facing burn-out. Or they might Run on some projects and Jog on others.

Clark believes that you must have high expectations of people, including yourself; and holding yourself accountable for equipping people to meet those expectations. He offers three key messages: 1) treat people fairly, but not necessarily equally – rewards have to be earned; 2) every single person within an organization has a contribution to make; and 3 ) you can always find a way to contribute at a higher level or do a better job.

Clark offers a lot of practical advice for employees. If you’re not already a Runner, I’d like to highlight 7 tips to help transform yourself into a Runner:

  1. Ask for help. Show that you care about a project enough to be sure you get it right.
  2. Accept criticism. Respond with “Good idea, I’ll remember that for next time” or “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again” or “I’ll fix it now.”
  3. Offer to help, even with small menial tasks. When someone else is doing the hard work, look for ways to support them.
  4. Engage in positive conversations. “How can we make things better?” and “How can we make a positive change?” and “I’m sorry to hear that, but can I tell you one bright spot in my day?”
  5. Realize that you are not entitled to the job. Be grateful for your job, thankful to be part of a team, and work hard to earn recognition.
  6. Be credible. Honor your commitments and don’t make commitments you can’t keep.
  7. Pay attention to details. Everyday courtesy and thoughtful gifts are important. Choose to see the positive. Don’t make excuses. Keep personal and work lives and emotions separate. Don’t assume you’re awesome. Work hard and be efficient.

For people in the Driver’s seat, Clark offers leadership advice to help accelerate the bus:

* Focus on Runners. Praise them and support them, and they will become even more driven. Overlook small mistakes so you don’t discourage them. Say “yes” to their new ideas as often as possible, and let them try new things, even if you don’t necessarily agree.

* Help Joggers to be their best selves. Give them projects that are a good fit and give them praise.

* Show Walkers how to improve. Teach them better ways to do things.

* Decide if Riders can be improved – or if they need to be kicked off the bus.

* Delegate grunt work to Walkers and Riders. If they don’t volunteer for small tasks, ask them, “Could you help us out?”

What kind of team member are you on your professional bus? Do you aspire to be a Runner or Driver? Who do you allow on your personal bus – people who help you succeed, or people slow you from accomplishing your goals?

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