This past week we picked up a new client that had an immediate need for several videos. On less than a day’s notice two of my employees were on a plane on a Thursday to the client’s location.  Others back at the office started working on elements of the project. When the field team returned late Friday things were humming along. We had a plan.  We knew that included working on Saturday.  However, like most projects it turned out to be more complicated than anyone anticipated. When I called to check-in I knew we needed more “boots on the ground.” I changed my weekend plans and headed for the office. By the time we left on Saturday night we thought we were in good shape and could finish the rest on Monday.

On Sunday early afternoon I got a call. The client had reviewed the work, loved it and wanted us to polish the videos before a Monday morning meeting with her executive team. Now what? We did what I like to call “dialing for employees.”  We start calling down the list until we could  find someone to come in and help. By the way, my employees know that if I call on a weekend there is very likely an emergency. They still pick up. In less than 20 minutes we assembled a team of four at the office and went to work. No one grumbled. No one complained even though there were two really great football games that day. We divided up the work and we got it done.
This is just one example of a team that I think has a great work ethic.

Why? Here are a few reasons.

At CK & CO, we routinely talk about the importance of being responsive to the customer. Our employees get the connection between providing great service and maintaining a healthy business. As a result, we don’t have the ups and downs that cause some businesses to continually contract and expand their workforce to meet customer demand. My team loves the security of a consistent flow of business and they understand that means we often need to go beyond a nine to five day.

We also try not to put the burden of difficult projects on a few select individuals. We have worked hard to cross-train employees so they can step into a variety of roles.  This gives us the flexibility to take on more work and assure that the same people don’t always have to respond to a fire-drill. In fact, employees at our company will talk through a situation to figure out who should respond. It’s not unusual to have someone say, “You worked overtime last week, or have travelled two weeks in a row, I’ll take this one.” This kind of attitude builds your team and makes for a great work environment.

If you want your team to have a great work ethic, you have to model the behavior. You as the business owner need to show up, roll up your sleeves and help. Even if you can’t do the specific task you can provide support and encouragement. You can bring them lunch and sit with them to review the work. You also need to thank employees. You should recognize extra effort and do it publically in front of other employees. It also doesn’t hurt to reach out to an employee’s family to say thanks. Send flowers or a gift certificate to a restaurant.

Finally a great work ethic is not just about stepping up in an emergency, although that is when it seems most obvious. Having a great work ethic is about caring about your work, your fellow employees and your customers… even when no one seem to be paying attention.


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