When I was in grad school, I took a summer job as a temporary secretary to keep myself afloat between teaching gigs. Imagine my good fortune when I got a return call – and then another and another – from the very first assignment I landed at a GE plant that made industrial diamonds.
Not only was it close to my apartment, but the people were great, the hours were flexible and the pay was good. I shifted between HR and production and legal and accounting, appropriately grateful each Friday when I got the OK to return for another two weeks.
On the fourth or fifth such callback, I expressed gratitude for my repeat engagement to my supervisor, who hired and managed all the temps. “Are you kidding?” Denise said. “We love you – you show up on time and you don’t steal.”
The latter comment was in reference to recent temps who were fired after they were caught buying plane tickets on the company’s dime or forging their timesheets. The former recognized that precious few people whose jobs were temporary in nature were scrupulous about punctuality.
I remember laughing and asking if she could put that in a reference letter for me. After all, such high praise wasn’t easy to come by so early in one’s career.
But I have thought about her comment many times during the intervening years, and I realized that Denise was quite right. She had actually identified two of the key attributes you want in any employee, vendor or business partner:
- Show up on time – aka do what you say you’re going to do. Since launching Sabo PR in 2003, I’ve lost track of the number of opportunities I’ve had because another agency failed to return a phone call, complete a project on time or deliver on a commitment. My background in print journalism hammered the importance of deadlines into my brain. When my team and I say we are going to do something, most of the time it’s done on time – or early.
- Don’t steal – aka give it your all. Showing up is but half the battle. Showing up ready to listen, to think, to write, to counsel – well, that’s the bigger half of the battle. It’s so common to be in meetings and watch others checking messages, checking Facebook, checking their watches – doing everything but being present, being in the moment, being there. I’m guilty of that myself sometimes, although I try not to be. I do try to focus on the one task, the one issue, the one client who is in front of me – and then give my all. A wise colleague once gave a presentation on how we only have 40 hours in the workweek, asking us what we planned to do for our clients during that time. At the time, I was somewhat dismissive of the simplicity of his talk, but it strikes me now as being incredibly insightful.
Show up on time. Don’t steal. Words to live by in the workplace.