There is an inspirational essay by Elbert Hubbard written in 1899 called “A Message to Garcia” that is about taking initiative and getting the job done.
Here is an abstract:
“When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountains of Cuba—no one knew where…the President must secure his co-operation, and quickly…Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia…[he] strapped it over his heart…landed by night off the coast of Cuba…disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out the other side of the Island having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia.”
Garcia is held up by Hubbard as an iconic worker who can “act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing.”
And the right way for a worker to perform, according to Hubbard (in my words) included:
- Attention and care to the job
- Independent action/autonomy
- Cheerfulness (or a good attitude)
- Integrity to carry out their work with or without supervision
Elbert Hubbard emphasizes a strong work ethic that can be best summarized when he states:
“My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the ‘boss’ is way, as well as when he is at home [interesting that this was written before modern telework!]. And the man who when given a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the missive, without asking any questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it.”
Hubbard’s essay sold over 40 million copies and was translated into 37 languages. It was also made into two movies. The message of Garcia as a model employee obviously resonates far and wide.
Reading the essay, which is written in “Old English,” it was surprising to me that the management challenges we face today are the same ones that were apparently confronted already 100 years ago.
It seems that the search for great employees – meaning those who can generate results, are accountable for delivering value, and are customer-centric - is timeless!
“A Message for Garcia” is truly a call to action for all. No matter what level on the career ladder we occupy, and no matter what organization we serve, what we do for our jobs does matter. Let us “own it” and own it well, just as if we were delivering the President’s message to Garcia.