Wednesday, July 10, 2013


We are challenged on every hand to work untiringly to achieve excellence in our lifework.  Not all men are called to specialized or professional jobs; even fewer rise to the heights of genius in the arts and sciences; many are called to be laborers in factories, fields, and streets.  But no work is insignificant.  All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.  If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”  - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last fall I was asked to speak to 3,000 employees of a large supermarket chain in the Midwest on building customer loyalty and regenerating the spirit in your workplace. 

One of the ideas I stressed was the importance of adding a personal “signature” to your work.  With all the downsizing, re-engineering, overwhelming technological changes and stress in the workplace, I think it is essential for each of us to find a way we can really feel good about ourselves and our jobs.  One of the most powerful ways to do this is to do something that differentiates you from all the other people that do the same thing you do.

I shared the example of a United Airlines pilot who, after everything is under control in the cockpit, goes to the computer and randomly picks several people on board the flight and hand writes them a thank-you note for their business.  A graphic artist I work with always encloses a piece of sugarless gum in everything he sends his customers, so you never throw away any mail from him!

A Northwest Airlines baggage attendant decided that his personal signature would be to collect all the luggage tags that fall off customers’ suitcases, which in the past have been simply tossed in the garbage, and in his free time send them back with a note thanking them for flying Northwest.  A senior manager with whom I worked decided that his personal signature would be to attach Kleenex to memos that he knows his employees won’t like very much. 

After sharing several other examples of how people add their unique spirit to their jobs, I challenged the audience to get their creative juices flowing and to come up with their own creative personal signature.

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