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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Outstanding vs Entitlement

This is reproduction of an email newsletter I received from the guys at QBQ, I thought it was worthy of sharing.

QBQ! QuickNote®

I asked Molly, our twenty-something daughter, who loves soccer and basketball and has served as captain in both sports, “Molly, in your opinion, what makes an effective team?” I was honestly just curious what she’d say; it wasn’t like I was doing serious research for a book or anything! But I loved her answer:

“Everyone taking care of their own stuff, Dad. Everybody working hard at doing their job . . .”

That’s exactly what happens in outstanding organizations. People do their jobs. They work—diligently. I didn’t say they get their life out of balance. I believe in balance and taking breaks and recharging. I didn’t say people should shortchange their family in some way. Family is critical. And I didn’t say people should become obsessed 24/7 with their jobs, either.

But I do say this: In outstanding organizations a solid work ethic is alive and well. People care, contribute, and combine talent and skills with old-fashioned “elbow grease” to get the job done. In lesser organizations, that’s not always the case.

There’s a phenomenon we all know about called “entitlement thinking.” People inflicted with this condition have one mantra—I deserve! Outstanding organizations work hard to make hard work a cornerstone of their culture and keep entitlement at bay.

“I deserve!” thinking can look like this:

  • A supervisor who felt strongly that the content of a particular book would help each person in his group learn and grow professionally and personally, happily gave one to each of his reports. Everyone was excited! Later, one employee returned to ask, “If I read this book at home on my own time, will I get paid for that hour?
  • An industrial complex was locked down for safety reasons from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There was a deadly threat occurring and management wanted all employees to be secure. People’s lives were their first concern. One week later, an employee submitted a request to be paid for the lunch hour he missed.
  • A dozen manufacturing plant supervisors were being trained as facilitators of a training process. They were engaging in a full-day session with no minutes to spare. Lots to do! At 9 a.m., the trainer broke them into three teams of four to do group work in breakout rooms—but nobody went to their breakout room. At 9:05, the trainer located all twelve in the cafeteria eating. When asked what they were doing, one said, “Hey, rules are rules. It was time for our break.

All of these examples speak to the entitlement mentality that chips away at an organization’s work ethic.

My daughter, Kristin—now a colleague of mine who loves working with audiences, too—and I were speaking in Washington, D.C., a block from the White House. So we did the tourist thing the night before our sessions, and together experienced a moment when someone clearly had the right attitude. I’ll let Kristin tell the story:

Getting hungry, we decided to grab some dinner, but most eateries in a nearby food court had already closed. Luckily, we found a Quiznos sandwich shop still open and placed our order a minute or two before the 7:30 closing time with Maria, a woman of about twenty who looked like she’d had a very long day.

As we stood back and waited for our sandwiches, a stately, well-dressed, elderly couple approached the counter and started reading the menu. The clock on the wall now read 7:32. The Quiznos employees—including Maria—had started cleaning up for the night. Meanwhile, I felt my own discomfort as the couple stood at the counter, quietly perusing the menu.

I so badly wanted to stop them from ordering. “Nooooo! They’re closed! See the clock? Let Maria go home! She’s tired!” As the time ticked to 7:35, though, the couple stepped forward. Maria happened to turn around right then and noticed them. The couple stood waiting expectantly, and I awaited a confrontation: the inevitable showdown between the employee saying, “Sorry, we’re closed” and the customers pleading, “It’s only a few minutes past. Can’t you make just two more sandwiches?”

It never happened.

Maria stepped up to the register and even though I saw her peek at the clock, she said, smiling, “Can I help you?” Well, apparently she’s no slacker. Some people say the young people of today don’t know what it means to work, but I say not true! Maria is evidence of that.

Thankfully, Maria cared enough about her responsibilities and her customers to do the right thing at the right time. Let’s each of us do the same. Again, it’s about everybody working hard, doing their job. It really does come down to having a good work ethic, and no organization can be outstanding without it.

Let’s work!

[Excerpted from Outstanding! - Chapter 22]

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