Categorized | Business

Taking Pride in What You Do

There is something to be said about taking pride in your work and the company you work for. Lately, I’ve become a big fan of people who exude enthusiasm and pride and make an effort to be the best at whatever it is they choose to do.

I became inspired to write about this subject while visiting the coffee shop I frequent across the street from the radio station where I work. There’s a gentleman behind the counter named Michael. Every morning he greets each customer with a fresh smile and an attitude that is so positive, it’s contagious. I keep thinking he is going to stand up on a chair, hands on hips, and shout out to the customers, “Hey everyone, yeah, I work in a coffee shop and you know what, I’m gonna be the BEST barista this side of the Mississippi, darn it!” It’s not just that Michael tells me I look nice or that he even has the amazing ability to recognize what fragrance I’m wearing. It’s that he takes pride in what he does… and to be honest, he makes me smile every time I see him.

Growing up, work ethic was drilled into my head by my parents and my older brothers. If you want to make more money, work more hours. If you are taking someone’s money, give them an honest day’s work, eat what you kill and so on. I am inspired every day by some of the people I work with, as well as many of the business owners I deal with on a daily basis who obviously grew up with the same principles. So why is it in this economy, with the unemployment rate where it is, getting increasingly harder to find people with this belief system, people who take pride in what they do?

I hear the same story from small business owners all the time. They have taken on more themselves because they just don’t want to deal with the hassle, the liability and the risk of hiring employees who steal, cause them to lose business or simply take a position only to quit and attempt to collect unemployment. Employers have been burned too many times, and subsequently have downsized, which ultimately has an effect on our unemployment rate and our economy.

The cost-cutting actions many employers have made to deal with the economic crisis have left businesses with fractured teams and more disengaged employees. Studies show that employee engagement levels have dropped significantly since 2008. According to Gallup, more than two-thirds of American workers are “not engaged” or “disengaged” in their workplaces in response to the volatile economic and workplace changes over the past several years.

Dianne Durkin, president of Loyalty Factor LLC, which consults with businesses on change management, employee loyalty and customer loyalty programs, said “People are disillusioned with the economy and the fact that many of them are having to do more work with fewer people, thanks to layoffs. You would think employees would be more engaged because of the economy, but I don’t think anybody is.”

So, the question I have is how do we get employees to care as much as we do? Max De Pree, former CEO and chairman of Herman Miller, used to say his job was similar to that of a 3rd grade teacher: just keep saying the vision and values over and over again. “At my company we have 300 employees spread across offices all over the world, and I send them all a voicemail each morning with a message from me about why our work is important and a reminder about one of our values. I call myself our company’s chief spiritual officer.”

Perhaps it’s time for me to purchase a high definition web cam and send inspiring video messages out to my employees every morning. Wouldn’t that be annoying, especially to my business partner… my husband. But in reality, if you own a business or manage people, it does make you stop and think what you can be doing to engage your team and improve employee morale. So for now I’m going to enjoy my coffee made by my favorite barista and try to be a better manager, coach, co-worker, salesperson and friend to those around me. As for any of that bitterness I’m holding on to about others and their bad work ethics, I think I’ll swallow it… and down it goes, warm, thin, bitter and good.

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