Twelve minutes before I was to speak to a large group in a hotel ballroom, I was struggling with A/V equipment. With hundreds of presentations under my belt, I’m accustomed to glitches, but no matter what I tried my presentation wouldn’t project.
Hailing the meeting planner, he did his magic and within minutes an A/V tech arrived with another projector. That, too, failed and with five minutes remaining, he began troubleshooting each part of the set-up; I began rearranging my opening to buy more time. There was no need. The projector wasn’t the problem, the cord was. I was up and running with two minutes to spare.
But, 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 technician returned to pack the equipment, putting the defective cord into the box with the projector. Thinking he forgot there was a problem with the cord, I reminded him.
"Yeah, I remember," he said matter-of-factly. "But every projector has to have a cord. There are two projectors, so I need to put two cords back." His thinking startled me. Clearly he didn’t see a projector packaged with a defective cord as his problem to solve.
His choice is a reminder about two types of people we encounter at work. People who solve problems, and people who avoid 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 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 choose not to ignore 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 event. And even if he didn’t know how to requisition a new cord or what to do about the situation, those who are winning at working take 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.
These are the people who 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 choose to make things happen with their everyday actions, no matter what position they’re in. They’re people who believe that doing the right thing is never "too much trouble." And these winning at working people know they make a difference in their work, even if no one else knows the problems they’ve averted for others.