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Bob, the organic dairy farmer, who was featured in Sunday’s New York Times, has an attitude about his cows that would benefit managers and employees alike. Bob sees his cows as an investment, and knows that whatever is going on with them will affect his bottom line.

“For productivity, it’s important to have happy cows,” Bob says. “If a cow is at her maximum health and her maximum contentedness, she’s profitable. I don’t even really manage my farm so much from a fiscal standpoint as from a cow standpoint, because I know that, if I take care of those cows, the bottom line will take care of itself.”

The farmer understands that this relationship is mutually beneficial. Bob doesn’t see his cows as easily replaceable milk-producing cogs in his dairy machine. He knows their names, their offspring, their quirks and their outputs. And he knows that the harder he works to provide what they need to be productive and contented, the better the cows will produce.

“They support me as much as I support them, so it’s easy to get attached to them. I want to work hard for them because they’ve taken good care of me.”

Because he cares about his cows, just like many supervisors care about their employees, it’s especially hard when Bob has to make decisions about the cow’s future, especially when productivity is off. When that happens, he tries to find alternative ways for those cows to contribute. But he is running a business, and he knows sometimes saying good-bye to the cow is inevitable.

Obviously people are not cows. For one thing, they have choices to make around their own contentedness.

And unlike cows, people have far more to contribute to boosting bottom lines when hard times befall a business than cows do. Smart managers know this.  By engaging workers in finding ways to create a better future, leaders have the opportunity to build business literacy, discover cost savings from the people who really manage day-to-day costs, and generate creative solutions to difficult challenges. 

Employees who are engaged in creating their own future are more connected to the business — and more likely to be content. And like Bob’s cows, an employee who is content is far more likely to be productive. When that happens, "the bottom line will take care of itself.”  

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