At the start of 2019, I send you my best wishes for much good health, passionate customer relationships and business growth. This is the year in which I turn 65 – a number that seemed unimaginable most recently. At the close of last year, I invested a few moments reflecting on life’s pivotal work and life events.
My customer service career began in October 1970, when I landed a part-time job delivering groceries for a local market. Entering the homes of our customers was neither difficult nor uncomfortable—all I had to do was be myself. My parents had taught me about respect, serving others, and honesty, and the lessons stuck.
Serving customers during those early years was an education in itself. I learned that people come in different shapes, sizes, and dispositions. The customers who anticipated my arrival welcomed me into their home and prolonged my delivery with chitchat. Only a few customers thought I was unfit to enter their abode—or, they perceived me as an interruption and stopped me at their front door, grabbed the groceries, and sent me on my way. Either customer disposition suited me just fine because my primary concern was that orders were accurate, delivered on time, and in good condition. The most profound lesson I learned was twofold: always maintain a positive attitude and establish a stable service infrastructure.
Years later, my experiences as a service manager taught me that hiring employees with the most positive attitudes was the safest bet, regardless of field experience. People with positive attitudes learn that each problem they overcome today prepares them for the obstacles lying ahead. The cumulative result of resolving daily problems eventually translates into a lifetime of field experience. Technical skills can be taught, and a person with a positive attitude is more resilient, adaptable, and open to new ideas.
A positive attitude almost always trumps technical ability, especially when you consider tenacity and perseverance as attitudinal factors.
Service professionals are able to endure the hardships because of tenacity and perseverance, not technical ability. Willingness to go the extra mile, maintain a positive attitude, and remain constructive are vital, world-class behaviors.
A person’s belief system and personal constitution about work usually begins at home. Parents help inculcate the disciplines and good habits that translate into professional workplace behavior. Remember when your parents urged you to clean your room or put your toys away?
The most meaningful lessons I learned about work, life, and serving others came from working with my father. He was born in 1912 and managed to achieve only a fifth-grade education. Students who were unable to maintain specific academic standards in those days discontinued their education after the fifth grade in order to enter the workforce. I suppose my father just did not learn the way other children did.
My father eventually began working with construction crews, where he developed a skill for working with concrete. Even without a formal education, he was able to teach himself the use of a slide rule so that he could calculate square yardage.
Many a Saturday of my boyhood was spent accompanying my father on one of his smaller concrete projects such as driveways, patios, and walkways. We would rise early to load a large concrete mixing bin on top of his 1959 Ford Ranch Wagon. After gathering the necessary shovels, hoes, trowels, levels, and tool boxes, we drove to the worksite.
My father taught me the importance of knowing how to select and use the correct tool for the appropriate job. I also learned the importance of properly storing the tools so that we would be able to find them when needed. Being organized is a key to success, whether I was a laborer or a consultant.
How about you? Did your parents teach valuable work and life lessons? Send me a note (firstname.lastname@example.org) about the most important lessons learned at home.