How to be Better than 90% of other workers: A Guide.

I’ve been working at Starbucks now for a month, and I have noticed something that I wish I had communicated to my students back when i worked with Campus Crusade. It’s a simple, three-step guide on how to be better and more impressive than 90% of the working world. Are you ready for it?

  1. Do what is asked of you, when it is asked of you, even when nobody is watching.
  2. Smile.
  3. Repeat.

The first and last step you might have guessed, and they’ll probably get you to the 75th percentile. But that second step, no lie, will push you right over into employee of the month category. Yeah, it wil require you to act as though you are enjoying yourself, but the funny thing is that after acting like it for a few minutes, you find yourself actually enjoying yourself.

Try it. You might like it.

Is Business Inherently Good, Neutral, or Evil?

In these days of red states and blue states, polarizing cable news networks, and increasingly vitriolic rhetoric from both sides, I want to make a case that one of the problems that needs to be confronted is the demonizing of business in popular culture.

Words like “profit” rarely have a positive connotation. “Big Business” is a political tagline that liberals use to illustrate points, and never a phrase you’ll hear defended. The assumption is that being “big” makes a business crooked. There can’t be millions or billions of dollars of profit without somebody being greedy or oppressive.

To illustrate my point: name one benevolent businessman (who was still a businessman at the end of the film) in a movie. Now, name 5 crooked businessmen in films. Or, just go and search “Businessman” at IMDB.com. Better yet, I’ll save you some time. Here’s the top 8 “partial matches” to accompany the word “businessman” at IMDB:

Image via browser at imdb.com

So it looks like your options in film are either to be an evil businessman or to be an Asian businessman.  And you might even still be evil if you’re Asian.

I just finished a fascinating little book (via the Kindle app for my phone/computer) by Wayne Grudem called Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business. I cannot more highly recommend it.  It walks through the biblical underpinnings of business (without ignoring the potential in each category for corruption and sin).  It’s a quick read, but well worth your time.  In it, Dr. Grudem makes a compelling, concise case for not just moral neutrality when it comes to business, but the inherent moral goodness of business.

What do you think?  Is it possible to be a businessman or businesswoman who is morally upright?

Working at Starbucks: first impressions.

“If you are not satisfied with the drink you’re about to hand to a customer, you have my full support to pour it out and make them a new one.”

That’s a quote from Howard Shultz, the chairman and CEO of Starbucks, paraphrased from the manual I’ve been using to train for my new barista job.

Image courtesy of jacreative

And it’s why I think this could be the beginning of a good thing.  I really appreciate that I have the freedom to make a judgement call, in a split second, on my feet.  Not only do I have that freedom, he went out of his way to express that I have that freedom.

It makes me think of an experience I had at the NC License Plate office.  I had the signatures of three different people, from all over town, expressing clearly that the car i was trying to get a plate for was, in fact, mine.  The only problem is that I had initialed on the wrong line, less than 2 centimeters from where I was supposed to.  The lady on the other side of the counter said “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to get that notarized again, and get those other signatures again, as well.”  I asked a few clarifying questions and found out that if this woman were to have allowed me to pass with my initials in the wrong spot (even crossed out and re-initialed) she could have lost her job. The government did not trust her to make a single, tiny judgement call to save hours of time and frustration for me.  Her job was slightly more advanced than a well-trained chimpanzee can handle–check, box, stamp, repeat. And that’s precisely how she was treated–it made everyone in the story miserable.

Contrast that with the fact that the CEO at Starbucks encourages me to pour money down a drain before making the person on the other side of my counter frustrated.  Not only does it make the customer happy, it makes the barista feel valued.  Which makes more money in the long run (both from that customer coming back, and from that customer sharing how great the baristas are at the High House Starbucks), which allows the company to provide jobs and benefits for more people, which literally makes the world a better place to live in. (not to mention the fact that we give people a product that they like…)

All because Howard Schultz told me to pour his coffee down a drain.

Assume The Best.

When I was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, we had to raise all of our financial support from individuals and churches, requiring us to network through groups of friends, through referral networks, and to challenge people to join our team of ministry partners.  “Support raising” as we called it to help people understand was more accurately “Ministry Partner Development” where we really sought not just to monetize the thing, but to challenge people to partner with us in reaching students for Christ.

If you’ve never done it, MPD might sound daunting at best, and terrifying at worst.  As I look back on my staff career, it was both my least favorite and most faith-stretching thing during those 8 years.

It’s also a thing that produces a near-endless stream of really funny stories.  Most people in a position for which they have to raise financial support can readily tell you a funny story of a miscommunication, a rude person on the phone, or a time when they let nerves turn them into a giant ball of awkward.

The problem with most of those stories is that there was no outlet for them, other than when you saw other staff members and could be assured you weren’t overheard.  Nobody wants to come across as a self-righteous jerk by being (mistakenly) thought of as making fun of others’ ignorance. So the stories just stayed hidden, whispered in safe places like staff meetings and interoffice emails.

Until now.  Now theres a place where I will be telling those stories.  AssumetheBest.info

Why “AssumeTheBest?” Because one of the cornerstones in a good support-raiser’s training apparatus is the encouragement to, without fail, assume the best about the motives and intentions of those whom he is calling, meeting with, and challenging to join him.  And as a staff member, I often laughed in the face of that encouragement, because that was the best way to cope with the dichotomy between “the best” and “the reality.”  As a sidenote, I tried to register assumethebest.com, but somebody is squatting on that domain name, and I can’t figure out how to get it from them.  So I got the .info one.

I hope it will go without saying, even though I said it on the “about” page over at ATB, but I loved my time on staff, and I loved the many people who supported us financially and prayerfully over the past decade.  This website will be satirical, poking fun at the strange dynamics that happen when you ask Americans for their money.  But I’m not bitter, and I hope the posts don’t come off that way.  If you think that I am picking on you, I’m not.  If you really think that I am, go ahead and follow this two step process:

  1. Assume the best about my motives.
  2. Call/Text/Email/Carrier Pigeon Me and let’s talk it over.

See you over at AssumeTheBest.info!

The Joys of Internet Job Hunting.

It’s funny how much I wish I could explain every answer on online job application surveys.  I know there is probably a psychological profile going on more so than the answers to specific questions, but when they ask a question like “If you are the manager, and you find out an employee has been stealing, but the amount is less than $5, would you fire them?” and my only answer choices are “Yes” and “No,” I find myself reasoning with the computer screen.

It totally depends on the situation.  Was this a first offense?  How long have they been here? Do they understand how serious it is to be stealing from the company?  What were the extenuating circumstances that led to the theft?  Do I have an overall feeling of dissatisfaction with their work?  Do I get the feeling that they are genuinely repentant, and aren’t going to do it again?

So, I go with “No,” hoping that I am not therefore being portrayed as the type of guy who just lets people steal from the company.  Because I’m not.  But I’m more fundamentally the type of guy who is more concerned with people growing and maturing, and being given the freedom to fail once before we show them the door.

I’d much rather interview in person.  That’s what I’m getting at.  But until then, I’ll talk to the computer screen.