I had noticed her earlier, joyfully greeting and seating guests in the tourist-packed bistro of a resort near the entrance to Denali National Park. After several days in Denali's backcountry, we were once more in the busy bistro and I saw her again. This time, equally energetic and enthusiastic, she was bussing dishes and wiping down tables, along side a man doing the same.
Clearing a table not far from where my husband and I were seated, I overhead the young man asking, "Lisa, tell me again, why should we be doing this?" Without pausing, Lisa matter-of-factly remarked, "Because it needs to be done."
Like many staff members in the resort, Lisa was there for the summer. When a few minutes later she was the server taking our order, we learned she was a college student from the east coast, enjoying her third summer working at the Alaskan lodge.
It was easy to see why she was invited back. Unlike most employees we met on vacation, Lisa stood out. It wasn't just her friendly demeanor. Many people we encountered in Alaska were friendly. It wasn't her quality of work or customer focus or attitude that set her apart either. We found good staff members with such individual qualities.
Still, she was memorable three weeks later as I thought about this column. What was it that set her apart?
Lisa didn't wait to be asked. She didn't look the other way when something needed doing. She didn't think it was beneath her to do it. Instead, when Lisa noticed that the already taxed bus person couldn't clear the tables fast enough to accommodate the growing need, she took action. She even recruited a reluctant colleague to help expedite the backlog.
That's what people who are winning at working do. They take positive, productive, helpful action when action needs to be taken. They don't wait to be told what to do, because they look for and see what needs doing. When they notice a problem, an issue, or a service challenge, where possible, they fill it or find someone who can. They think and act like owners, expressing their personal values of excellence, service, and quality through the actions they take.
For people who are winning at working, their job description isn't a static piece of paper. It's an active, morphing, evolving entity. They don't get bogged down thinking "it's not my job." They operate instead with a self-initiated bigger picture philosophy. Their mental job description reads, "other duties, as needed," not "other duties, as assigned."
These are the people you want to hire or promote or bring back year after year. These are the people who create their own workplace luck. These are the people who are winning at working. It's their initiative that sets them part, whether it's bussing tables or solving problems. As Donald H. McGannon, former CEO of Westinghouse Broadcasting Corporation put it, "Leadership is action, not position." People who are winning at working lead every day with their actions.
So, tell me again why we should do this? The answer for people who are winning at working is as simple as Lisa's -- because it needs to be done.
Nan Russell is the award-winning author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books, January 2008), and nationally syndicated radio host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell" weekly on webtalkradio.net. Nan has spent over twenty years in management, including as a Vice President with QVC. Today she is the founder and president of MountainWorks Communications, as well as an author, speaker and consultant. Visit www.nanrussell.com or contact Nan at email@example.com.© 2012 Nan Russell
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