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