The Story of the Bucket

by placers on June 28, 2019 in Outside Insights



The world of business is fast-changing. Fickle, almost. Climates evolve rapidly, markets come and go, consumer demand is continually in flux. Any company that navigates these inherent trials and tribulations with grace isn’t doing so because of sheer dumb luck. They have a secret sauce: Their employees.


The lifeblood of any company is its people. It’s the individual and unified ideas, thoughts, solutions, innovations of employees that make up the heart of any organization and ultimately cement its differentiators in an otherwise crowded marketplace.


Why then, after making a great hire, are many organizations tempted to force exceptional talent into the rigid confines of an empty space on a jigsaw puzzle? Operating under strict SOPs, essentially telling them to sit down, shut up, and do it “our way”? It’s counter-intuitive – and an unfortunate waste of the brilliance inside each and every one of their employees.


I strive to avoid this pattern at Placers at all costs. When I sit down with one of our new team members, I tell them the story of the bucket. Take a look below.


The Story of the Bucket


When I started my first job right out of college, my new boss gave me a metaphorical empty bucket. Every day when I showed up on time or successfully completed my tasks, I would earn a thimble full of trust to fill my bucket. If I showed up late or made too many mistakes, I would consequently spill bits of trust out of my bucket. Frankly, in the early days I think I carried around an empty bucket that certainly had to have holes in it! I was a fresh college graduate. I had big ideas and a brain but did not always know how to use it.


This company preached “earning trust”, but I came to learn that “earning trust” is subjective and finicky. It works off of fear.


Instead, at Placers, we give out full buckets of trust on our employees’ first days. By starting with a full bucket, they’re able to spill some trust as they learn and experiment without fear. Thinking creatively and pushing the envelope won’t sink our ship, but it sure as hell might take it to even greater shores.


In fact, a study by the Harvard Business Review showed that employees in high-trust companies reported 106% more energy at work and 76% more engagement than employees in low-trust companies. It really does matter.


“To be successful, you have to be out there. You have to hit the ground running and if you have a good team around you, and more than a fair share of luck, you might make something happen. But you certainly can’t guarantee it just by following someone else’s formula.”

Richard Branson


We say to our new hires: Don’t be afraid to spill a little! We need you, full body and soul, eager to make waves. We want you to be outspoken and curious. We need you to answer the call even though you don’t have the answer yet. We need you in all of your glory, not tepid and cautious because you don’t want to spill your bucket. We have big and important work to do together that can’t be accomplished with lukewarm ideas. Don’t be afraid of messing up. We trust you.


So, yes, at Placers we like our buckets full – with just the right amount of water sloshing over the edges as our employees make leaps and bounds. That’s where our secret sauce is.


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