Woody Allen was wrong.
“Seventy percent of success in life is showing up” (Woody Allen). Absolutely not. Jan, the owner of a very successful business, personally recruited me to join his team. The offer he made after a few meetings, was attractive and generous. I already knew that I was in the presence of greatness, but I had to ask: “Can I have it in writing?”
His demeanor changed instantly and with clenched teeth he said:
“No one in the company has anything in writing from me. Do you want to know why?”
My heart sank. I felt that I totally blew it. All I could do was avert his gaze and nod.
“If my word is worthless, you might show up for work everyday, but you'll never truly work for me”
Jan, to this day, is one person who profoundly influenced my career. He didn't just deliver on every commitment he made that evening, he went above and beyond; when our company went public, Jan distributed millions of his personal wealth among his employees. He never told anyone he was considering it, he just did the right thing.
Showing up for work is irrelevant. The only things that matter is how you approach your job and what you do with your time, a point that is often missed by business owners and managers. Equally disturbing is, “as long as you pay me to be here, I don't care what I do” attitude.
Paychecks do not legitimize existence. Similarly, having the power to sign paychecks isn't a license to demand blind-obedience.
Business owners mistakenly believe that their primary role is to ensure that employees show up for work. Fueled by such misguided culture, it is therefore not surprising that employees respond by believing that on-time punching in/out fulfills their role and the owner’s expectations. Both are wrong.
We’re all in this together; the good, the bad, the ugly. But most importantly, results and success can only be achieved if we ditch the b.s. and deliver minute-by-minute value; for our customers and our team.
Jan went beyond just keeping his word; he was tough, demanding and impatient, but what really mattered was the fact that he was authentic and transparent. No one had to guess what he had in mind; it was straight and obvious. Think of how much energy we waste adjusting our behavior to ‘please the Boss’. We think we know what she wants, but most of the time we are wrong.
Jan expected all of us to work our butts off. He never measured loyalty by the hours we kept, he didn't have to. We spent whatever time we needed to get the job done, not for Jan, for us; we owned our jobs. We showed up for work because we wanted to, and because we knew that Jan will be there for us and often, unexpectedly.
Although we had a formal performance review, all of us at some point or another, were surprised by an ‘unscheduled” raise.
“I don't like anyone to ask me for a raise”, Jan told me one day. “It’s humiliating. I don't want anyone to work for a raise, or ask for one. Don’t just show up for work. Do the work because you care. I'll worry about the rest”.
Woody Allen was wrong.