Sign your work with excellence

  • Published
  • By Brig Gen Theresa Carter
  • 502nd Air Base Wing commander
Ding! We all know the sound ... new email has arrived! No matter what we're doing, we're tempted to look at the computer and see what it is.

You may think to yourselves, "Ugh, not another email," if you're sitting at work and already have nearly 100 unread messages. You may be excited if you're on your home computer and are waiting on news from a family member.

We all, more than likely, have friends who are "serial forwarders", those who regularly send us email with links to little known facts or photos of adorably cute puppies, which only serves to reinforce our belief that our own dog is the cutest in the world.

I received one such email last week and went through my standard routine, "Oh, another note from X. Should I click on that link? Is it really a phishing attempt?"

I've been through all of the information assurance training so I know the dangers that lurk in cyberspace. After a few more seconds of back and forth, weighing pros and cons, I clicked on the link. I landed on a web site called "The Simple Truths of Service" where Ken Blanchard and Barbara Glanz tell a story inspired by Johnny the Bagger. Glanz recounted how she told attendees at a customer service seminar they each could make a difference. They could create memories for their customers that would make them want to come back. They could do that by putting their personal signature on the job.

A few days later Glanz received a call from Johnny, a 19-year-old grocery store bagger with Down Syndrome. He said he enjoyed her presentation and initially didn't think he could do anything special for customers since, "After all, I'm just a bagger." He then came up with the idea to find a thought for the day. If he couldn't find a good saying he would make one up. His dad helped him print out multiple copies and he would sign his name on the back of each one. As he finished bagging groceries, he dropped his thought for the day into the bag and said, "Thanks for shopping with us."

A month later, the store manager called Glanz. She told her she wouldn't believe what had happened. One day the manager noticed that Johnny's line was three times as long as all the others, stretching all the way down to the frozen food aisle. She quickly hustled more cashiers to the front and told patrons more lines were open, but nobody moved. As she asked each customer why, they all said the same thing, "I want to be in Johnny's lane; I want to get his thought for the day." One woman even said she used to come in only once a week to shop but now came in every day just to get Johnny's thought for the day.

A few months later, the manager called again saying Johnny transformed the store. The floral department started taking flowers with broken stems and creating small corsages that they gave to elderly women or young girls shopping in the store. A spirit of service was everywhere, all because Johnny chose to make a difference.

This story resonated with me because it speaks to one of my leadership - "sign your work with excellence." I usually explain the principle by sharing stories about service members who don't have a glamorous job - operating the sewage pumping truck for instance - but put their heart and soul into whatever they're asked to do. Through their example, they inspire those around them to elevate their own performance. That's exactly what Johnny did and that's what all of us can do at work, at home or in our community.

The principle applies regardless of the job we have or the role we play in our organization, our family or our community. In one way or another, we're all serving others, even if we don't think we are engaged in a customer-service job. In every interaction with coworkers, family or friends, we have an opportunity to make a positive difference simply by being fully engaged in the moment and putting forth our best effort.

It's been said that every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Make the most of every opportunity you have and create a masterpiece! How will you sign your work with excellence today?