Getting employees to take pride in their work.
— Loan Admin Manager
Taking pride in your work may sound like a stretch when you’re assigned some mundane and miserable and task. Like charging late fees on overdue mortgage payments. But it’s the most important thing a manager can do for her staff. And, while some jobs come with more built-in glitz than others, any job can be uplifting or demoralizing, depending on who’s doing it.
Our Loan Admin Manager’s challenge reminds me of a story of a hospital janitor. This man took it upon himself to learn the needs and habits of the patients whose rooms he cleaned. He learned the visiting hours of one woman’s family and would turn off his vacuum cleaner to allow them to have a quiet conversation. He also learned when a man recovering from major surgery took his walks down the hallway and made sure the floor was dry and safe to walk on.
This janitor took pride in his work. He saw it as an opportunity to help people and to contribute to their healing. He understood why they were there, and he teamed up with doctors, nurses, and the patients. In doing so, he made their wins his wins. Imagine how proud he was to see the injured man walk again.
You might wonder what this has to do with management. The janitor in the story is an extraordinary human being who deserves all the credit for doing what he’s done. His manager didn’t tell him to look after the patients. You can’t teach awareness and compassion. Or can you?
We all get our inspiration from someone. Maybe it was this man’s family that taught him to be kind. Or maybe he has experienced the kindness of a stranger. Or maybe he’s got a great boss. There’s no reason a manager couldn’t rouse employees to take pride in their work. The key is to inspire. No force could get them to change their attitude, except their own heart.
Inspiring others is easy. Sometimes all it takes is a personal example. I am curious if today’s Loan Admin Manager takes pride in her work. Perhaps she does. How else would she know when it’s missing?
The advantage of a hospital janitor over a loan administrator is face contact. Both are in the service business. However, one is serving in person, while the other is serving from behind a computer screen a thousand miles away.
How does one connect to the invisible customer? How does a loan administrator share in her customers’ success? What is customer success when we’re talking consumer loans? I wonder if the Manager has the answers. Where does she get her inspiration and pride? Can she share her stories?
If it helps, I can share a couple of my own. One is about being an invisible customer.
I was staying at a hotel in Mexico. A maid cleaning my room noticed a Spanish textbook by my bedside and wrote me a note in Spanish. Maybe she knew I had brought it with me on my trip as a last-ditch effort to not give up on my Spanish. Perhaps she was just feeling playful. Or maybe she saw her chance to make extra tips. (Have you noticed the connection between playfulness and tips? It works! Check out Chapter 26, Play, of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? if you want to learn more.) In any case, I was delighted to see a few Spanish words scribbled on a notepad next to my book.
The other story is about our customers. Today, Communifire has over four million users. We don’t see even a small portion of them. And our developers don’t get to see or talk with many. But they take immense pride in their work.
They enjoy making improvements to the system. They know what their work means to our company and the people who use our platform. While we love to hear from individual customers, the numbers, too, can tell a story. We track the usage of various features, and we take especial pride in nailing a feature for one group of users or another.
Communications people love our intranet software’s article and blog features. IT people love the automatic version control in our files section. And our FileSync feature has a fan club of its own. We don’t let little wins like that go unnoticed. Not to mention the big wins, like signing up a new customer. Our developers know that our customers are their customers. If not for our developers, these would be someone else’s customers.
Understanding the customer is key to taking pride in your work. If your people have any real-time contact with customers, encourage them to get to know each customer a little better. Let them know they play a role in all of their customers’ lives, even those they never get to see. Help your employees lighten up and have fun. Everyone can use humor. Delinquent borrowers are no exception. They may even need it more than money.
Help your employees find new reasons to feel good about their work. Here’s an off-the-cuff list of excuses to celebrate from a recent post, “Enough fresh ideas to entertain staff.” Have metrics and goals that define success for your people. Customer success. Company success. Team success. Personal success. Acknowledge each other and share your stories.
Most importantly, treat your people the way you want them to treat customers. I didn’t invent this rule; it’s been around for decades. Still, it’s worth mentioning in a post about getting people to take pride in their work. If you are not proud of your employees, you can forget about it. I may have said this before, but I believe every manager needs to hear it more than once: you first.
If you take pride in your work, you might like my book, because it’s about people like you inspiring others.