People who enjoy their work are truly the blessed of the earth
Regular readers will know this column often likes to identify ordinary individuals who are fighting the good fight when it comes to personal excellence. This week, it has found another one to highlight.
The lady in question is called Ioana. She is a flight attendant. I have encountered many flight attendants in my time, mostly mediocre, some good. Ioana belongs in the ‘outstanding’ category. Long flights are often a good chance to catch up with one’s reading. In a recent flight, however, I abandoned my valuable hoard of reading material simply to watch Ioana in action.
This lady was phenomenally engaged with her work. Being a flight attendant, please note, is way less glamorous a job than most people think it is. Much of the time you are forced to be a glorified maid, usher and waiter combined: heating and serving food; cleaning up after people; herding them; listening to incessant requests and complaints. And that experience is repeated day after day. It is very difficult to keep smiling through it all.
Not so with Ioana. She was a dynamo radiating positive energy in everything she did. She fetched and carried; she served and cleared up; she played with children; she responded to every query. Most importantly, she seemed to be exactly the same with every type of customer: every race, every background, every social class.
I found myself making notes and wondering: what makes this lady so special? What makes her so able to do this job with such distinction, when most of her peers in other airlines are so poor at it?
The first answer to this question is personal. People like Ioana are indeed special. They set high individual standards for themselves, and they do things well for their own pleasure and satisfaction – not because they are made to by someone else.
I am always telling chief executives and recruiters: people like this are like gold-dust – look out for them and hire them without too many questions when you encounter them. The person with a positive outlook and inner drive and high standards can only do good for your organization – especially when placed in front of customers.
The second part is about organizational culture. People like Ioana thrive when they are in the right environment. Ioana works for the Emirates airline – and it is no surprise that that carrier features regularly in the world’s top 10 for passenger-service excellence. Ioana was undoubtedly outstanding – but she was surrounded by very able colleagues, mostly displaying similar energy and engagement.
Great customer experience happens when great individuals and great organizational cultures come together. The quality of the person certainly matters – but so do the standards and norms set by the organization. A remarkable organization aims to find and develop many, many Ioanas, not just one. It spots them, encourages them, rewards them, and uses them to set the tone.
Highly engaged employees are very rare across the globe. Surveys suggest fewer than one in five enjoy their work or are willing to do anything extra for their employer or customer. Meeting such employees is invariably heartwarming. They will usually go far and create great net positive value in the world.
People who enjoy their work are truly the blessed of the earth. They get up every day buzzing with energy and feel they are in the right place doing the right thing. How many of us can claim to be like that?
This places a great responsibility on us: to find the work we will love doing; and to simultaneously love the idea of work. Most people are imprisoned by their own bad attitudes, festering in dead-end jobs with bad organizations.
There is a better way to live and work. Seek out an Ioana around you, and you will see it for yourself.
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