Normally, I’m pretty happy when I visit my company’s communities. A rare exception occurred a while ago that I’ve not forgotten. Two Team Members in the office, no customers. As I walked in I could see the workout area was in need of vacuuming. I walked up to the counter. It was messy behind the counter and on the floor I could see shards of paper from the shredder and other debris. I paused for a split second and waited to be greeted, waited for the Team Members on duty to turn their attention from each other. After a moment of waiting, I chose to take the initiative and introduced myself.
“You’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean” reverberated in my mind as I walked out. I’m always impressed when I see staff at retail stores taking advantage of slow moments to clean glass cases and straighten displays. At our local premier health club I notice the trainers and other staff members wipe down the machines when they have an opportunity among other tasks. Someone once said “customer service is not a department, it is an attitude,” and when the entire staff takes part in keeping the business premises neat and presentable, you know you have a true team.
The cleanliness, crispness, and neatness of our offices, clubhouses, and community grounds speaks volumes about how we operate, what our standards are, what our self-concept is as individuals and as an organization. I’m closer to 60 than 50 and I could have retired a long time ago. If I see a piece of litter on our communities, I pick it up. Some people have tried to convince me that picking up litter is not “dignified.” I believe they have a pretty strange idea of dignity.**
“You’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean” is just a way of saying MAKE YOURSELF USEFUL! Find a way to be productive, find a way to advance the mission of the organization whose money you are earning. Make a difference, contribute, don’t sit there like a bump on a log, find a way be useful. You will go much further in life, your life will be much more interesting as a result, and you will enjoy the journey a great deal more.
** I will cheerfully concede that “policing the grounds” may not be the highest and best use of my talents as a full-time task. But I would argue long and hard that always picking up the first piece of trash I see at a community is an important symbolic act of leadership, solidarity, teamwork, and commitment to walking my talk.
This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive, originally posted June 23, 2008.