Late one Friday when the fish weren’t biting, Dad decided we could spend our time better having a beer at the little tavern in Green Lake Terrace, Wisconsin, where we had a summer home.
From the comfort of a bar stool, he told me three secrets to success at work – and he’d had a variety of experiences in life.
I’ve tried to carry them out, and they work:1. Always stay as polite as you can for as long as you can.
If you start out mad, where can you go from there? Besides, if you’re polite, calm, and rational, the person you’re dealing with will feel obliged to act that way, too, and this is more likely to get you want you want.
My dad added that this can require calculated self-control, and the point might come when politeness doesn’t work. He earned the nickname “the bastard” at work for his ability to be impolitely assertive in a self-controlled, calculated way when he had to. For example, once a machine was delivered that didn’t work right, and in heavy manufacturing, operating errors can kill people. The supplier refused to fix the machine. Finally, my dad talked to the supplier and explained in simple Anglo-Saxon words why they had to fix their machine, or else – and they finally understood what their situation would be if they didn’t.
My father, who would be 84 this month if he were still alive, didn’t teach me how to swear, but he taught me when to swear.2. Always remember that the people who work for you have it in their power to determine whether you’re a success or not.
Treat them as well as you can. If your employees hate you, they have no incentive to work harder than they need to. In fact, they might even make things fail out of spite – this has actually happened.
If your employees know you try your best to get them what they need, fight on their behalf with the powers that be, and respect them, they’ll go the extra mile. Experienced workers treasure a good boss. For some reason, my dad said, good bosses are rare.3. Always tip bartenders.
Bartenders remember regular customers who tip, and that means you’ll have a friend in the room.
For example, when my dad entertained clients, he could pre-arrange for his friendly bartender to quietly slip him non-alcoholic drinks while the others were getting what they ordered. It helped to be the clandestinely sober one during business discussions.
This secret to success extends to all kinds of people who don’t work for you but who have a working relationship with you. If you appreciate them, they’ll return the favor in their area of expertise. Be on good terms with janitors, for example. They know more about the building than you ever will.
— Sue Burke
Also posted at my professional website: http://www.sue.burke.name