Talent Management

3 Lessons About Perpetuating the Passion of the First Day on the Job

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The wife and I were out running errands on Saturday morning when we happened upon an unexpected and rare energy explosion.

As we approached an intersection, we noticed a human billboard doing his very best to get the attention of the passing motorists; and getting attention from motorists is obviously what an individual in this occupation is paid to do.

Human billboards have become commonplace in our metropolitan area, but this particular young fellow was going all out. He wasn’t merely “holding” the sign, he was jumping up and down, smiling and waving at all passers-by, and making certain that everyone who could see his sign read it. Lori and I got a chuckle observing him before driving on to our intended destination.

Uncommon exuberance on the job

We spent 90 minutes shopping at a retailer nearby and then left for home returning on the same route. As we approached the intersection again, we we’re both astounded to see that this worker’s energy, passion, and enthusiasm hadn’t dwindled one iota. In fact, he’d turned it up a notch.

This kind of exuberance while on-the-job is rare and I was overcome with curiosity. Was he on a mission to be the greatest human billboard in the history of the universe, or had he merely overdosed on Red Bull?

So I pulled out my iPhone and interviewed him on the spot.

Okay, mystery solved. This was simply the euphoria of a 14 year-old kid’s very first day on his very first job, right?

But this got me to think even deeper. At what point will this kid become bored and lose his energy and enthusiasm for the job? Isn’t that inevitable?

And deeper still — How can his manager perpetuate his passion so he’ll perform like this in two days, two weeks, two months, etc? And, can a leader find a way to ignite this kind of passion in all of their employees?

3 lessons we can take from this

I’ve never employed a human billboard, so I’m not the definitive authority. However, I do believe there are three lessons that every leader in every industry can derive from this example:

  1. This employee is obviously ideally suited for the job he’s been hired for. He’s got both the physical and the emotional requirements to handle his assignment. Why do we so often see people working in positions they haven’t got the aptitude and/or attitude for? Lesson: Take time to hire the right person for each job and avoid at all costs using a ‘one size fits all’ approach to staffing. Recruit, screen, interview, and be meticulous in all phases of your hiring, even for the lowest entry levels of your business. The results of your attention to detail in this area are always on display in your workplace.
  2. This employee can measure his success instantly. He’s clear on his purpose and he doesn’t have to wait for a 90-day performance review to know if he’s meeting expectations. Every time a car turns into the parking lot he’s pointing to, this kid can celebrate. Lesson: Don’t assume your employees know how their performance fits into your objectives. Establish clear goals and metrics for them and provide a mechanism where they can track their success and get immediate feedback. It keeps them engaged and committed.
  3. This employee feels well compensated. His response to my question of how much he’s getting paid clearly shows that he’s ecstatic to be getting $7.86 per hour. Lesson: When your people feel they are getting “a great deal” they put their very best foot forward. Too many employers are stingy when it comes to labor costs and wonder why they have passionless, non-committed soldiers manning their front lines.

Final thought: Think back to your first day on the job. Are you still as passionate about what you do now? If not, it’s unreasonable to expect your people to be passionate about working for you.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit revivingworkethic.com.

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the emerging workforce and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 3 leadership books including Reviving Work Ethic . His new book, On Fire at Work: How Legendary Leaders Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out, will be released later this year. Learn more about Eric at EricChester.com.