I’ve been in and out of the labor force for many years—as a writer and a teacher, a fundraiser and a program director. I’ve worked in architecture and graphic design, I’ve built houses and cleaned them, baked bread and made jewelry, dug shelters in a war zone and organized protests near the State House. I’ve been paid to skin a squirrel, to paint eyelashes on the horses in a carousel and to take a baboon for a walk. But no matter the undertaking, I’ve come to realize there are some common principles that help the work along and can even be linked to achieving successful outcomes:
▪ Communication is key. If you want people to join your cause or buy your product, you not only have to tell them about it (that’s the easy part), you have to ask questions and be genuinely interested in their needs and desires.
▪ Show up. This isn’t just about getting to where you are supposed to be on time, it means making the extra effort to offer your assistance—especially when others were not expecting anything from you.
▪ Express gratitude. Let others know that you appreciate a job well done. Or if your team is slogging through hard times, thank them for hanging in there to find a solution.
▪ Find common ground. Get to know the people around you, where they come from and how they got to where they are now. Find the places you overlap—there is always something, even if it is only a shared love for mocha chocolate chip ice cream—and use that as a foundation for building trust and respect.
I could also talk about honesty and humor and humility. This is not a complete list, but it’s a start.
Today is October 16, 2013. Tomorrow the U.S. government comes up against the deadline to raise the debt ceiling or deal with default. I wonder: what have our Congressional representatives learned from their daily work running this country?