In stark contrast to the somber swearing in of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the offices of President and VP respectively, the world witnessed with combined amusement and respect the diligence of an as yet unidentified man, some say a Bill Barr look-alike, dubbed “Podium Sanitizer Guy”* who sprung into action and quietly but thoroughly sanitized the podium upon each speaker stepping away. It’s not too big a stretch to envision this fellow seated at a bar (remember those?) responding to the question, “What do you do?” and answering matter of factly, “I’m just a podium sanitizer guy.” For the rest of us, it might be, “I’m just a flight attendant, nurse, teacher, software developer…”
Wise leaders make it a point to interrupt this “just-ism” and equip it with a sense of pride and purpose… “You’re not JUST an anything!” Rather, you are THE Podium Sanitizer Guy, THE Right Fielder for the Atlanta Braves (Godspeed, Hank Aaron), YOUR Dental Tech, or as I pointed out to my son recently The one and only professional Bartender in the SAV airport, so if you want a drink while you’re there, you’ll likely meet him. The difference is more, much more than semantic.
Smart leaders also realize that the pride doesn’t stop there. It extends to the team that we’re a part of. Twenty years ago, if you happened to be seated at the aforementioned bar, engaged in conversation with a fellow traveler and were asked about your occupation, you would likely have responded to the effect of, “I’m a Regional Sales Manager for Marriott Hotels.” Today, quite often, there is no tip of the cap to the team that you’re a part of… I’m (just) a Sales Manager.” While that evolution can be partially attributed to shortened job tenures, that’s not the only factor.
To those who would say that it’s not a big deal, I would say, “au contraire!” As mentioned in a WSJ webinar earlier this week, restaurateur Danny Meyer (Founder & CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group) who knows as much about motivation as he does food, noted that, in an age when many of us are de-institutionalizing, stepping away from many of life’s major institutions (marriage, church, government, et. al.) “where you work remains one of the most important affiliations in people’s lives.” As usual, he’s spot on.
Following is a list of three things leaders can do to build competitive advantage via an enhanced sense of pride and purpose:
- Take advantage of every opportunity to establish and reinforce the significance of your team members’ work. Do it loudly and clearly, publicly when possible. Remind them concretely and on a regular basis of the connection between their effort and real, paying customers. Why, how, and to whom does their work matter?
- Lend dignity to them and their work by making sure that no one, repeat, no one is allowed to abuse or humiliate them, ever. There aren’t many things in life that are worth setting yourself on fire (metaphorically) over, but this is one of them. Abuse someone on my team and you’re going to have your hands full. I want everyone on my team to know that, so they don’t have to be looking over their shoulder wondering who’s got their back.
- Keep your standards high, including the standards for who gets to play (and stay) on your team. People, least of all star performers don’t want to work with turkeys.
You can do this!
* For more Leadership Lessons From the Podium Sanitizer Guy, see https://contentedcows.com/notorious-psg-podium-sanitizer-guy-rocks-inauguration-stage/
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