An Unusal Spelling Bee

The Manager Application

An article published in the early 1900’s told the story of the winner of a spelling bee.  The work has great application today to work and personal lives.  Consider how one spells ‘man.’

A man told his three nephews that there would be a spelling bee that eveniSpelling Beeng.  The prize was a new pair of skates to the boy who could best spell 'man.'  The contest time was “right after dinner” that night.

All day long, the three boys wondered. Bewilderment showed on their faces.  Had Uncle John lost his mind?  There was only one way to spell ‘man,’ and they all knew the correct spelling. Surely this was a joke.

After dinner, the contest began as scheduled.  Harry was first.  Instead of asking Harry to spell 'man,' Uncle John asked if Harry had been a good boy that day.  Harry said, “Yes-n-o.”  He went on to explain that he did something that Aunt May asked him not to. Ned Barnes dared him to.  Harry honestly stated that he could not bear for a boy to dare him.  The boy then asked his uncle what that had to do with spelling ‘man.’  Without answering the question, Uncle John faced Bob.

The question for Bob was similar.  Had he experienced a good day?  Bob responded, “Haven’t had fun enough.”  His explanation went on, stating that it was all Joe’s fault.  They wanted the pond to themselves but the girls showed up.  A pre-determined plan was to run the girls off.  Uncle John stopped him and asked Joe to finish the story.  After all, Bob blamed him for the day not being a great one.

Joe explained. He thought the girls had just as much right on the pond as did the boys.  So, he spoke to a couple of the bigger boys who agreed.  Left undisturbed, the girls stayed, and thus blame went to Joe for the bad day.

A flash came from Uncle John’s pocket.  In that instant, the skates were hanging over Joe’s knees.  He was the proud new owner.

Uncle John announced the spelling-match over and Joe the winner.  “Boys,” he said in a serious tone.  "We have been spelling ‘man’ here, but in acts-not letters."  He reminded them that he  told them in the morning that there were different spellings.

What can one glean from this story? What application does it have for business  today?  Could it be of help to teachers? Would consideration of the moral of the story help parents?  Consider the thoughts.

Uncle John rewarded the nephew who did “the right thing.”  The beauty of the situation is that he did not announce doing the right thing as the criteria for winning.  He just rewarded it.  Think about it.

All day long, people witness others doing both the right and wrong thing.  Unfortunately, the wayward acts often generate more interest than do the righteous ones.  This is the unfortunate truth in business, classroom, and home life situations.

All managers of people take note.  Yes, business managers, teachers, and parents are people managers.  Define manager as a person who mentors another person and helps them reach their greatest potential. 

Spontaneously reward desired behaviors without first announcing the intent to do so.  Send a personalized thank you note to the employee who steps up to help another employee without being asked.  If a teacher, place a call to a parent about the child who showed compassion to a classmate.  Hug the child at home who gives the last cookie to a sibling.  Great rewards take the form of almost anything and are not necessarily monetary.

This strategy WORKS to influence behavior all around. When rewards are given, others notice.  Use rewards often so that all people  share in the glory.  Few management strategies are as easy as this one!  Reward systems that worked in the early twentieth century works today on many fronts.