Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Do Your Best Work at All Times

From making sure that the correct items are configured correctly and shipped, to the proper installation and testing of the product to assure everything works as required, it is the responsibility of everyone within a company to perform their duties to the best of their ability. If one person fails to do their part, then the entire team has failed to service their client.

From the technicians at a warehouse who prepare a product for shipment, to the installer at the client site who installs the equipment, to the technical support staff who support the client after installation, everyone must do their best quality work every time. From the vendors who deliver and display their product on store shelves, to the store produce employee or the store baker or the store butcher who puts their respective products on display, if the product doesn’t look good or is too old and outdated or molding, you won’t make the sale and chances are your customer will go elsewhere for a better quality product and the store will go out of business.

If it appears that you are the only one working to produce a good product, don’t stop putting out your best. Continue to put out your best and continue to be proud of what you do. If you are one who is not putting out your best work, why not? It shouldn’t matter that you are unhappy with something at work or at home. It shouldn’t matter that you are unhappy with your pay or with your contract. When you are working, you should be working and doing your best work. If you feel you are not getting paid what you are worth, prove to them that you are under paid by consistently performing above and beyond what you are required to do. That is right. Don’t just do what you were hired to do, do more.

It is just like the difference between an A student and a C student. Remember that a C grade is an “average” grade. In other words, you have done what was expected of you. An A grade means that you have gone above and beyond what was expected of you and your work stands out from the average. You may not be getting the pay you want today, but eventually you will. Here are a couple of examples based upon my own personal experience. After I got out of the military I went to work at a bank. My job was to perform backups of two different Trust Accounting systems on the weekend and then finish the rest of my hours printing and distributing reports. The Saturday backup took 21 hours and the Sunday backup took 9. I would then work a few hours on Monday and Tuesday until I reached my 40 hour work week. That is all I needed to do.

After a month of spinning tapes, I got tired of just sitting there and reading the newspapers so I started opening the manuals and taught myself four programming languages (BASIC, COBAL, WANG Procedure Language and Prime Control Language). Before long I had convinced my boss that it would be more efficient to add a second tape drive to the Prime 9955 system (Saturday’s backup) and I rewrote the backup program to use both tape drives. This cut the backup down from 21 hours to 11 hours, allowing me to have an extra 10 hours during the week that I could be working on other duties. When the quarterly and monthly statement printing cycles were upon us, I became three times more productive than the other computer operator because I was able to multi-task my work and get more done.

Our manager could tell which of us had worked that weekend because of the amount of statements that had gotten printed over the weekend. My stacks were literally three to four times larger than the other guys because he wouldn’t multi-task. While I didn’t get a raise with that company, an old supervisor who had left the company a year earlier kept me in mind and when he had an opening at his new bank, he called me up and gave me a 40% pay raise to go work for him. So while your hard work may not pay off today it can certainly pay off tomorrow.

So don’t wait for your company to give you a raise, show them that you deserve it with your work, not your mouth. If they don’t notice, or they refuse to reward you for your efforts, then someone else will. Just be patient.

I was going to spare you my military stories, but I can’t resist adding using two stories to help make my point in this posting. In the Air Force, at least back in my day, in order to attend the Air Force equivalent of SWAT school, you had to be at least an E-4. One day I was approached by an officer in the squadron (it was so long ago I cannot remember who it was) who told me that the squadron wanted me to be the first to attend the SWAT school in Texas. Not only was I the first one from my base to ever attend this school, but I was also told that the squadron had obtained a waiver that would allow me to attend the school as an E-3. This opportunity came about not only because of my physical prowess at the time (a 4:42 minute mile in high school track was still a 5:00 minute mile in combat boots) but because I always did my best or tried to do my best in everything I did. That was the type of person they wanted to be the first to attend this school.

My second military example was when I was selected to become an Investigator. The Investigations office had 4 positions. One of the four Investigators was reassigned to another base so the squadron put out a bulletin announcing the opening and encouraged anyone interested in submitting a letter as to why they should be selected to fill the opening and attend the Investigator training school. At that time I had by eyeing an opening in the squadron’s training section so I did not apply for the Investigator position. One day, at the end of my shift, I was standing at the clearing barrel unloading my revolver so that I could turn it into the armory when I suddenly found myself surrounded by my Shift Commander, the Operations Superintendent, the Law Enforcement Superintendent, and the NCOIC of the Investigations office. I was asked how I would like to take the position of Investigator in the Investigations office. I told them I wasn’t interested, that I was interested in the training position that I had applied for. I was told I should reconsider the position as they thought I was the best person for the job. I told them I was still not interested and was told that I was in the military which is not a democracy and so I will start in the Investigations office on Monday.

I was angry at the time, but eventually began to really like what I was learning in the Investigator Training School and looking back I realized that it was quite an honor to be given such a position of high trust and responsibility. The squadron had once again turned down or overlooked everyone else and picked me because of my work ethic.

The moral of the story is that whenever I was asked if I could do something, I always said “yes I can”. Even if I had never done something before, I would tell them that I had never performed that task but let me give it a try and I’ll see what I can do.

Too many people when asked if they can perform a task that they have never performed before, will tell you no, they can’t and they are never given the opportunity. That opportunity is given instead to the person who says yes they can or they will “give it a try”. No one will give you the opportunity if you yourself don’t believe you can do it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Worker Motivation in the Workplace

Company success requires a team effort. If any part of the team fails, then the entire team has failed. One of the biggest things our FBI instructors stressed during SWAT school was that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”, in other words if a weak link in a chain fails, then the entire chain has failed.

In any company, in any endeavor, if one process is not completed, not completed correctly, or not completed on time, then the entire process is delayed, incomplete, or not completed at all. Bottom line is that the project failed, therefore the team or company has failed. In a SWAT team, each member has different and specific duties to make the team a success. If one of them fails to perform their function properly, the results could be catastrophic for the rest of the team.

I used the lessons I learned as a member and a leader of a SWAT team and applied them while working as a supervisor is a Trust Accounting department back in the early 90’s. When I first arrived there I noticed that each of the people I supervised had specific time sensitive duties that needed to be accomplished every day. If someone was out sick for the day, those duties still needed to be accomplished on time and it was up to the staff to accomplish those tasks. It usually fell upon one person to fill in for the person who was out and perform their normal tasks at the same time, usually because there was only one other person who knew how to do the tasks which needed to be done. This created tremendous stress for the person who got stuck doing the work of two people.

I identified this as a serious morale problem for the staff and immediately implemented a cross-training program as a resolution. Each person spent a couple of hours once a week working at and learning the duties of another station. Once they were able to perform the duties of that station, they moved on to learn a third station. On a regular basis they would spend time at one of the other two stations to remain proficient and to learn any new changes in procedures. Whenever someone was out sick or on vacation at least two people could split the duties thus lightening the workload.

No more learning as they went along. They were comfortable and confident in what they were doing and it appeared that they were hardly fazed by the absence of a team member. The work was completed on time and the staff’s nerves were still intact. More importantly, the team was more motivated and more successful.