How To Make a Difference With One Shift

What puts some people on a path of perpetual progress, while others seem destined for daily disappointment?

Consider Steve. Over the course of a thirty year career, Steve has risen to the highest ranks of one of the world’s largest consulting companies. A savvy dealmaker, Steve is also known for being one of the most humble and down-to-earth leaders in the organization.

From the outside, Steve seems like a natural. His career track might look pre-ordained.  But things could have turned out very differently. Here’s how Steve put it.

It was my first day on the job. I was a newly minted college graduate, just hired as an entry level consultant. I was so excited that I could hardly sleep the night before.  I put on my suit and tie—the suit and tie I’d just bought for the job–and headed out to the client site. The client was a major US bank.

When I arrived, it turned out the client “site” was a dirty old warehouse, the size of two football fields. It was filled with rows and rows of dusty file drawers, each holding banker boxes bursting with bank documents.

Our engagement “team” was me and another brand new hire, Bill.  He was wearing a brand new suit, too.  Once our manager arrived, we received our instructions: we were to go down every single row in this gigantic warehouse, go through every single file drawer, pull out every single banker box, unclip or un-staple the documents, and make a copy of every single document. Then, put all the originals back and put the copies in a centralized location.

As the project was being explained, I started to feel faint. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.Are they serious? I went to college for this!   Part of me wanted to quit on the spot and walk out.

After I calmed down, I realized I had a choice. I could spend the next two months whining and moaning about what a horrible job I had, or I could shift my attitude.

In that moment, I made a choice.  If I was going to stay (which I wanted to do), and I couldn’t change the outside world, I’d change me.  I decided I would be the best bank document copier ever.

Bill and I made a pact: to work hard, fast and have fun.  We planned out our strategy.  I asked the manager if it’d be okay if we came to work in other clothes. Given the warehouse’s condition, we got the OK to show up in jeans and sneakers.

Starting the next day, we showed up in our casual clothes.  I brought a boom box so we could listen to some tunes while we worked.  We got to work.

After a week, our manager came by to check on our progress.  He was amazed: we were nearly a quarter done.

At the end of two weeks, the bank manager paid us a visit to check in and acknowledge us.  Word had spread of the amazing work being done in the warehouse—these two whippersnappers were working at lightning speed.

We finished the project two and a half weeks ahead of schedule.

That first project taught me a huge lesson.  We all are challenged from time to time.  The attitude we choose doesn’t just make a difference:  It is the difference.

When you’re challenged, what do you do to shift your attitude? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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