Winning at Working: Two Kinds of People

Twelve minutes before I was to speak to a large group gathering in a downtown hotel ballroom, I was still struggling with A/V equipment. With hundreds of presentations under my belt, I’m Column10-teaser peopleaccustomed to handling last minute glitches. But no matter what I tried, my presentation wouldn’t project.

Hailing the meeting planner for help, he did his magic and within minutes an A/V tech arrived with another projector. When that, too, failed to work and just five minutes remaining, he began troubleshooting each part of the set-up, and I began mentally rearranging my opening to buy more time. Turned out, there was no need. The projector wasn’t the problem, the cord was. I was up and running with two minutes to spare.

However, this isn’t a story about A/V problems. It’s a story about two kinds of people.

At the end of my session, the same technician returned to pack up the equipment, putting the defective cord into the box with the projector. Thinking he might have forgotten there was a problem with the cord, I reminded him of the earlier issue.

Matter-of-factly he said, “Yeah, I remember, but every projector has to have a cord with it. And since there are two projectors, I need to put two cords back.” His thinking startled me. Clearly, he didn’t see one of the projectors packaged with a defective cord as his problem to solve.

His actions were a clear reminder of two types of people we encounter at work. People who solve problems, and people who avoid solving them; people who know it’s a problem but still pass it on hoping someone else will fix it, and people who eliminate the problems they encounter or at least inform someone who can; people who operate with a this-is-not-my-problem mindset, and those who operate with a view toward service and contribution.

People who are winning at working don’t ignore the problems they encounter. If that tech was operating with a winning philosophy, he’d make sure both projectors had working cords before they were put away and impacted another meeting planner or speaker’s event. And even if he didn’t know how to requisition a new cord, or what to do about the situation, someone winning at working takes the initiative to find out.

The difference is as simple and as powerful as this: people who are winning at working don’t view their job description as a static piece of paper. To them, it’s an active, morphing entity.

People who are winning at working don’t get bogged down thinking “it’s too much trouble” or “it’s not my job.” Instead, they operate with a self-initiated, bigger-picture mentality. Their mental job description reads, “other duties, as needed,” not “other duties, as assigned.” These are the people who confidently make things happen by their everyday actions, no matter what position they’re in. These are the people who believe that doing the right thing is never “too much trouble.” And these are the people who know they make a difference in their work, even if no one else knows the problems they’ve averted for others.