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How Do We Coach People to Do Their Duty

Close to retirement, he decided to finish strong.

It’s frustrating to have someone on the team who stops short of doing their Duty. They do the minimum. They only do what they are specifically asked to do. They seemed satisfied with mediocre performances.

The frustration for me boiled over one time with an experienced sales representative. In fact, he was only eighteen months from retirement. He knew his days were numbered. He even kept us all informed of exactly how many days he had left! But he was on our team, and we needed him to do more than just the minimum.

In the Army, we used to call these people ROADies: Retired On Active Duty. People at this point in their career can be some of the hardest to coach, let alone to inspire to grow. The promise of rewards or promotions mean little. And the threat of consequences often get met with blank stares. Yet as leaders, we are called to coach and motivate everyone on our team to do their best and accomplish the goals.

In Todd’s case, he was a family man. In fact, he and his wife were raising his grandchildren themselves. He was a kind and moral man that was proud of what he had accomplished in his life. His motivations were no longer focused on success at work. He had other priorities at this stage of his life. Using a carrot or a stick to get him to perform at a higher level would simply cause him to become more of a ROADie.

It was my Duty as the leader of that team to make us into the team everyone wanted to do business with and the team everyone wanted to work for. That included Todd. So I made it my goal to revive his career for those last eighteen months. I told him that my goal was to “make the next eighteen months the best and most fulfilling eighteen months of your career.”

I had to figure out what he cared about and how his work impacted that. What I realized was that his grandchildren were the center of everything. He wanted them to grow up to be strong morally and to make wise choices. He wanted them to be his legacy.

I knew then that if his work performance would impact the lives of his grandchildren, then he would be inspired to exercise his Duty at work and finish his career on a high note. In fact, we came up with three themes for his last eighteen months that he would also use at teaching points for his grandchildren.

  1. Enjoy Your Work: Todd loved to tell war stories about past success at work. He and I both made it a goal for him to have similar stories about the final chapter of his career. He wanted to share his daily successes and challenges so that his grandchildren had a positive example of how hard work can bring joy to your life.

  2. Fulfill Your Commitments: Todd knew that by collecting a paycheck every two weeks, he was making a commitment to work hard for the next one. Just because you are tired or having a bad day does not excuse you from fulfilling a commitment you made.

  3. Finish Strong: Todd’s finish line was in sight. Would he finish strong or would he limp across that finish line? What example did he want those kids to see? How he finished would not only set a legacy for those children, but also for his peers who had not yet reached retirement age.

Doing our Duty is not dependent on rewards or consequences. It is truly about who we want to be. Todd decided as he got closer to retirement, he wanted to finish strong. Todd wanted to set an example for his family.

When that eighteen months was up, Todd actually didn’t retire. He kept going a few more years. He actually enjoyed setting the example for his grandchildren. And in the end, he set the example for a lot of us on how to finish strong.

Dig Deep Questions:

● Who would follow your example?

● What things do you want to do better so they see your own sense of Duty?


It is important to us for you to have an opportunity to exercise Duty, not only individually, but together as a team. This is why we have created practice cards with scenarios. We invite you to discuss as a team what it means to exercise Duty via our Coaching Cards.

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