I recently found myself chuckling while in a conversation with a carpenter working on a project at my home. It was the fact that he paraphrased an old Woody Allen quote about the key to success that really tickled me.
On Day 2 of the job, I noticed he was down a man on his crew. When I asked him if he was short a guy, he smiled and said, "Yeah...but I'm not really short a worker. He was a smart guy, but he wasn't shaping up to be an MVP out here."
It turns out that the guy who had been let go that morning had only been with him for a couple of weeks. He had called my contractor that morning with a pretty poor excuse as to why he couldn't be there that day.
My contractor joked, “He apparently couldn’t handle the ‘working part’ of working.”
He continued, "I decided that he needed to find someone else to teach him about how life works." I asked what he meant.
He told me, "I tell these guys that, in the beginning, 90% of their job is just showing up. A lot of them just don't understand how showing up on time with a good attitude opens doors for them. Just show up to work, man. "
As we chatted, he pointed to another 20-something year old guy on his crew and said, “That guy’s been with me for 5 years. When he started, he didn’t know which end of the nail gun to hold. Now, he could go into business for himself, with his own crew, if he wanted to. That guy gets it.”
When I pried a bit on what he meant by “gets it”, he said, “He understood that just because you’re digging holes and picking up trash when you start out doesn’t mean that’s what you’re always going to do. He had a good attitude as he did the grunt-work while he was learning how to be a carpenter. And he always shows up. You can count on him.”
I told him that I had never managed construction crews. But his career advice seemed as true for someone working in an office building as it is for someone constructing an office building.
He agreed and said, “Funny, huh? All the brains in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t have a work ethic.”
I assured him, “You’re preaching to the choir, my man.”
Having aptitude is great. But having a strong work ethic may be even more important.
And no matter what level in the business pecking order you achieve, the latter is more likely to differentiate you.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at a community bank’s companywide meeting. The daylong event was well planned, with management sharing relevant “state of the bank” information.
They also conducted team building exercises that reinforced the bank’s mission and philosophies about customer service. It was all good stuff.
One segment of the program actually surprised me just a bit. The bank put together a 4-person panel of its small-business lenders to talk about their jobs and take questions from branch and back office personnel.
I’ve seen many panel discussions at scores of conferences devolve into repetitive snooze-fests. This one didn’t.
I was reminded of the great benefit of helping team members understand the nuts and bolts of other parts of their company. In this instance, I suspected that some bankers and support staff were a bit surprised at how much shoe leather and car tires get worn out by good small-business lenders.
Learning that many workdays begin at very early-morning meetings and end at after-hours appointments, and that some workweeks stretch into Saturday and even Sunday, gave folks a different perspective on those jobs.
I smiled as one lender shared how beneficial it was to get business owners bragging about their businesses just a little. He knows that people like being with folks who compliment their work. Plus, you uncover great opportunities when you get people talking about their hopes and plans for the future.
But it was a comment made by one loan officer and expounded upon by the others that really struck a nerve. He shared that he knows that as a community banker, there will simply be times in which his prices, and perhaps even the technology he has to offer, will not be a competitive advantage.
He said, “We have to be the difference. That potential customer has to see that you really want to earn his business by calling on him regularly. And existing customers have to see that you work for them. We have to show that we can be depended on and that we’ll respond when others might not.”