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The happy dishwasher

This was before a presentation to a group of executives on the subject of creating a strong, committed culture, linked, of course, to the current labor shortage issues.

Before my presentation, I bump into a man at the coffee break. He looks a little disheveled, unkempt and even a little dirty. He stands out from the crowd in their fine clothes. He then asks me if I work here, referring to the restaurant we’re in.

“No, I’m attending the convention.”

I’m speaking to managers in a few moments and I don’t really want to start a discussion with him.

“Ha. I work here. I’m a dishwasher. I love my job!”

It piques my curiosity. Perhaps I judged him too quickly. After all, I’m about to talk about commitment, and he obviously has something to say on the subject.

“I’m curious, can you tell me why you love your job so much?”

The next part doesn’t come from a leadership textbook. It comes from the man I now call the happy dishwasher.

“3 reasons”.

“First, my bosses have a vision. They want to open other restaurants, they do everything they can to offer the best quality to the customer. It’s exciting, I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

“Then they give me the tools I need to do my job well. I got a new machine last week, it washes like a tabarouette!

“And finally, I realize myself here.”

Listening to his explanation, I understand that he was educated, that he had once been successful and then lost everything, due to certain demons. For him, this work was one of the many steps in his personal reconstruction. He wasn’t looking at where he was, but at how far he’d already come.

Even better, he explains that he understands that he’s not just washing dishes. It makes meals, business meetings and birthdays more enjoyable.

“What’s the point of good food if the plate is dirty?!”

The happy dishwasher reminds us that the ping-pong table in the cafeteria is not enough to make our employees satisfied, productive and loyal. First of all, we need a vision and values. It’s true that most companies have done this work. The next step is to ensure that all team members adhere to this vision.

In concrete terms, this means not only thinking about the product or service we offer, but above all about its impact. The impact is the mission, it’s the famous “why”, it’s what brings people together, it’s what creates commitment, and it’s what attracts and retains staff.

For example, we don’t sell coffee, we bring people together. We don’t sell financial services, we help parents secure a future for their children. We don’t sell marathons, we help people increase their self-confidence.

And the ultimate goal, the greatest challenge: to achieve alignment between the company’s vision and values and the visions and values of individuals. In such a way that staff feel they are part of this vision and these values, rather than simply exchanging their time for a paycheck.

I thanked my interlocutor for the nice time spent with him. I even wanted to get him on stage with me at the very beginning to tell his story. I didn’t dare. After the conference, I told my client the story. He told me I should have.

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