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How to Master a Commendable Work Ethic

Updated on June 23, 2013

Make The Difference

Being irreplaceable as an employee is simple, but not easy. It takes effort and determination. Nowadays it seems the need is greater than ever to be a truly fantastic employee. But, in many ways it’s also extremely attainable because so many employees have lost the desire to dazzle their customers and employer. For me, it’s very personal, the work ethic I maintain. My job is time away from my family so I want to make the time count for something. I want my employer to be proud to have me as a team member. I want to make a difference to those I serve at work. I feel this motto can apply to most any vocation, whether you work in retail or law. So how is it done?

My first job ever was neighborhood babysitter. It started with one next door neighbor asking me to watch her two kids while she ran a few quick errands and blossomed into a booming business where I was turning clients down for dates I was already booked. It wasn’t a long road in terms of the service I provided, but it was a lot of nights, weekends, even holidays sacrificed. Since I didn’t have much of a life back in the day, this was fine with me. Most importantly I seemed to have a natural talent for impeccable service.

The service I provided was competent, dependable and above expectation. This, I feel, is the key to being invaluable. The kids asked their parents to go out so I could come over. The parents found their home tidier when they returned than when they left. My rates were so low I often got tips out of sheer customer delight! It was a recipe for success so I decided to apply it to all future employers. Here’s a few tips:

Try These Techniques

Be There or Be Square!
It wasn't until I worked in retail that I was outwardly commended for arriving to work for every shift I was scheduled, and on time. Corporate America often runs on flex-time (you can arrive/leave at non-specified times as long as you put in the hours expected) but quite a few positions are by time clock. No problem! I’d rather be two days early than two minutes late, and employers feel the same. If your shift starts at 7am, you better be present and ready to work no later than 6:58am. If you can’t make it to work, you better find a way. If you can’t find a way, you better give as much notice as possible. If you can’t give any notice, you should consider appeasing your boss by having someone to cover your shift on the spot. If none of these are feasible, don’t be surprised if your boss classifies you unreliable.

Stick the Landing!
If you work quickly but your task is done wrong, your effort is irrelevant. When mastering a new task, learn how to complete it entirely, correctly and consistently. Only then should you improve the time it takes to complete the task. First get it right every time, then do it faster.

If You Have Time to Lean…
Ever find a down time in your work day? It happens, no big deal. But do something with these precious moments besides checking your personal e-mails. Instead, tidy your workspace, especially if you share it with other team members. Restock your supplies, start your daily reports, wipe down your work surfaces, ask for a quick restroom break so you don’t need one during a customer rush. Familiarize yourself with your business. Do you know your products inside and out? Do you know what your customers need and want? Do you know your company’s history forward and back? Knowing these things will help you be a better employee. As long as you’re on the clock you should be working at something. Employers won’t just notice…they’ll be thrilled.

You’re Never Fully Dressed…
Consider a genuine smile part of your business attire. Unless you have no co-workers and no interaction with customers, you need to present an enthusiastic disposition. You have a job because of your customers. Don’t make them feel like they’re bothering you. It is your pleasure to serve them…whether they need directions to another department or they have a complaint. Smile! Infuse joy into your tone and body language. Be courteous (use “please” and “thank you” often). Don’t just go through the motions, mean it. If you don’t like to be pleasant consider a job where you don’t have to be social with anyone. If you are a team member, part of your job is to be pleasant with your crew. Positive attitudes are just as contagious as negative ones, but they usually equal greater business success!

Do Your Part, And Then Some
A scoop of ice cream is great. A scoop of ice cream in a cone with sprinkles and a cherry is better. The same can be said for your performance at work. You’re not looking to satisfy, you’re looking to delight! If your customer or boss gives you a task, do it right, in a timely manner and see if you can take the task one step further in some way. For example, if you’re asked to tidy the office as part of your daily responsibilities tidy it and then also clean the areas that are now tidy. If a customer wants a custom order, offer to create it and suggest improvements to what they’ve requested. If you made a mistake, apologize, fix the mistake and then offer to compensate your error in some way. Now here’s an opportunity to shine. If you know of a co-worker who needs a break, offer to take his/her shift. If you’re about to leave for the day and the office is a mess, not only reset it to the standard, but make sure all the supplies needed for the next shift are on hand. Most people don’t think this way nowadays, but the difference would be huge if they did.

No Excuses

What if your boss doesn't recognize all your hard work? What if a co-worker takes credit for your efforts? What if you’re having a lousy day and you’d rather be anywhere else but work? These scenarios always come up from time to time. It’s life. Your goal is not publicized glory, or singular success…it’s business success. If you help exceed the business goals your employer will notice. If you bring in the revenue, you've made your time count. If your co-workers take credit for your accomplishments they are proud to work with you and envious of your performance standards. That’s a great first step! After that you can work to make sure your thunder isn't stolen (in a professional manner).

The point is you’re striving for personal performance excellence. You are the focus, your work, your standards. You can’t succeed if you concern yourself with inevitable distractions. Stay focused. Once you achieve a commendable work ethic you’ll be a sure bet for business success.


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