I’m fascinated by the subtle things that people do in their jobs that make them uniquely talented at what they do. I’m not talking about education or training. I’m talking about something special, a unique talent that makes an individual shine brighter. In “First, Break All the Rules” by Markus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, there’s a great example of this.
Gallup was asked by a large entertainment company to help them find more housekeepers like their best. They assembled eight of this company’s best housekeepers. They asked them: “How do you know if a room is clean?” They said that the last thing they did before leaving a room was to lie on the guest’s bed and turn on the ceiling fan.
Why? “Because,” they explained, “that is the first thing that a guest will do after a long day out. They will walk into the room, flop down on the bed and turn on the fan. If dust comes off the top of the fan, then no matter how sparkling clean the rest of the room is, the guest might think it’s as dirty as the top of the fan.” These housekeepers viewed the hotel room as the guest’s world. When they cleaned the room they imagined how a guest would see it and making the room just right gave them satisfaction.
They considered themselves as front-of-house employees who set the stage for the guest. For example, if children left stuffed animals in the room, the housekeepers – with the guests’ permission – would arrange the animals to tell a story. When the family arrived after an outing they might find Pooh and Piglet sitting on pillows holding the remote control with an arm in the candy jar as if they had spent the day snacking and watching TV.
I love that!
The work I do is about identifying talent and comparing it to a job’s needs. While I can’t measure that unique subtle thing, what I know for sure is that if someone’s talents match the needs of the job, they’ll be happy doing the job and those subtle somethings will come through automatically. When we work in a job that needs what we have to offer we feel competent and that feeling of competence sets those unique and subtle talents free.