I once worked as a part of a team that prided ourselves in delivering worthwhile work.
We would set up the fresh fruit, vegetables and meat displays in our local supermarket. All done before 9am for the store opening and to the perfect precision required by the customer.
This is going back almost 30 years…
Why was it such worthwhile work?
The manager that led the team would drill us to ensure we took the best caution in stock rotation and in attention to delivering the best possible freshness we could in every item we sold…
Because as he put it;
‘If people are spending their hard earned money to eat fresh, then our job is to make sure what they buy is of the best quality, that it will last the longest for the customer when they take it home, because they can not afford to chuck it in the bin’
The supermarket was in a deprived area. Eating fresh was not the first choice due to availability of funds.
I admired that clarity back then and it had such positive intent to do the right thing for the customers.
The pride in everything what we did shined from every part of that department, from the inside of the drawers in the stockroom to the mirrors on the backs of the displays.
It was recognised.
I next came across the idea of worthwhile work when I was given a copy of the book; Gung Ho.
I recommend reading it, it is short and to the point. A story with meaning.
The spirit of the squirrel; Worthwhile work.
The way of the Beaver; in control of achieving the goal.
The gift of the goose; Cheering each other on.
The simple ideas in the book formed the very early days of my own ideas in leading teams.
Recently I have been opened to another perspective on worthwhile work.
It happened while walking through Beijing with Lisa, my partner.
I would always see Lisa take the flyers from the people who would be handing out the flyers in areas of the city. In particular there would be people always at the entrances of the metro stations handing out maps and around the edges of the maps would be recommended restaurant’s etc.
One day I asked her why she would always take the flyers even though she didn’t need them.
She said in her response that she was able to help them do their job because she was in the position to take the flyers.
Lisa also pointed out that they were doing worthwhile work because they were helping provide choice to customers and also giving directions to people who may be disoriented.
The job was also worthwhile to the people handing out the flyers because they would get paid for doing it and spot checked to make sure they followed the correct rules.
In that way, I am enabling them to feed there families. So taking the flyers is worthwhile for me.
Worthwhile work is always a matter of perspective.