What's Your REAL Job?

The other day I was running on a trail that passes behind the parking lot of a local library branch. At that moment a big waste truck was picking up the library’s trash bin at the back of the parking lot. As the truck’s big arms lifted the dumpster and emptied it into the truck most of the trash dropped in as it’s supposed to. But some didn’t. Some trash was strewn across the parking lot. What did the truck driver do? He backed the truck up (even driving over the top of some of the trash that had fallen to the ground) and drove away to the next stop on his route. I started thinking about what the library staff would think when they arrived and saw that trash in their parking lot. The word “thrilled” didn’t come to mind. Another idea popped into my head. What did that truck driver understand his job to be? I assume it was to drive around all day having his truck lifting dumpsters into his truck. What if he saw his job another way? What if he saw his job as ensuring that the library’s trash was removed – all of it? It seems pretty clear that if he viewed his job as serving the customer’s real problem, he would have behaved differently. He would have stopped and picked up the trash that had avoided the truck. Would the library’s satisfaction have gone up or down as a result?

Mission Matters

Has it been awhile since you looked at your company's mission? Is it centered around solving customer problems? Asking an employee to view his or her job more broadly is unreasonable if your company doesn’t have a clear vision of what it is attempting to do. They need to understand that your company is in the business of solving a specific type of customers problems. They need to understand what those problems are and how the magnitude/importance of them. And, of course, they need clarity about how your company brings the valuable solution. But it all begins with understanding that your company's mission is not based in just selling stuff to customers. It's a broader, more customer-focused mission.

Your Action Item: Clearly define your company's mission to describe how your company provides value to your customers. Share it with all employees.

Measurement Matters

People do what gets measured. You’ve probably heard that axiom before. And I think there’s a strong element of truth behind it. A system of success measures informs employees about what’s important to the company.

Is that waste truck driver’s compensation tied to getting his route completed on time? If so, then his behaviors are rational. Keep moving. Get the route done. But what if part of his measures of success included customer satisfaction? Would he have made a different choice. And would that different choice better solve the customer’s true problem of trash removal? Would that choice to get out of the truck and ensure a clean library parking lot lead to a more highly satisfied and more loyal customer? I believe so.

And let’s even take that a step further. What if the situation in which trash misses the truck happens all the time? And what if the driver is intimately familiar with why it happens and shares a few ideas for how to improve bin, process, and/or truck improvements? Isn’t that the actions you want? Isn’t THAT the level of commitment you want from your employees?

Think about it from the employee’s perspective as well. Will he or she come to view his or her role as a pretty important piece of the company’s success? If so, their pride for their job will most surely grow. Recognizing and rewarding their actions will increase employee satisfaction and that appreciation will in turn reduce turnover.

Your Action Item: Evaluate your review/compensation system to make sure you are incentivizing the right behaviors. 

Culture Matters

Culture helps define what people do. It provides clues – some subtle, some not so subtle – about the types of behaviors that are expected. It provides a level of pressure for the employee to do “the right thing” to live the company’s values. Expectations get set.

You need to develop a culture that values taking care of customers and their needs above individual transactions. What you want is a culture that says: "I know I could probably make more money doing X, Y, or Z, but making the customer happy is more important than this one transaction.".

Your Action Item: Describe the culture you want your company to have as it relates to customers. Be sure you share it with every employee.

People Matter

 You MUST have the right people. You can have all the great systems and culture in place; but none of it matters if you don’t execute. And who executes your business? Your staff. As you craft your mission and vision and develop the right culture, none of it matters unless you have the best people in place to carry out that mission each and every day.

Commit to developing your team into the best staff around. Make your team one of your competitive advantages. Develop those people. Make sure they understand that one of your priorities is to help them be successful.

Action Item for You: Assess your hiring practices with an eye toward (1) defining the characteristics of the "right" employees and (2) implement ways to find and hire those individuals.

If that waste truck driver saw his job as one that ensures the library's trash is picked up and their parking lot kept clean (instead of just emptying their dumpster), he would have made a different choice - and made their customer much happier. Make it clear that your company's centered around solving problems for customers and that customer care is critical to your success. Your team will make better decisions and your employees will "own" customer relationships. But it starts with you, the leader. Define your business's mission and culture properly and your team will follow.


I LOVE to help businesses grow! Let me help you get your business focused on solving customer problems.

Please feel free to reach out and get in touch and let's explore how I can help you and your business succeed. No pressure. Just an informal discussion to explore some ideas. You can reach me at (713) 907-8429 or BCohen@IDiscoverConsulting.com

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