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At crunch time, react, then ask

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management

After American colonists beat the British on Dec. 26, 1776, in Trenton, N.J., Gen. George Washington convened his troops and asked them to re-enlist.

On the heels of such a victory, Washington expected a positive response. But as he stood there and the drum rolled, not a single soldier stepped forward to sign up for another stint.

When he saw that his army was about to slip out from under him, Washington began to improvise. He offered each solder $10 a month instead of the standard $6 if they would sign up right then for at least three more months.

This time, almost all the men stepped forward to re-enlist.

Washington had no authority from Congress to make that offer. But his alternative was to leave the field with no army.

Congress backed him up. It just goes to show that sometimes, you have to act first, and ask for permission later.

— Adapted from 1776, David McCullough, Simon & Schuster.

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