Instilling a good work ethic, leading by example


July 23, 2023

Work ethic is the principles we live by in our business lives.

When I was 13 I very much wanted a puppet. Not just any puppet, but a puppet from the very best, Puppet Productions (now Puppets, Inc.). In 1978 one of the basic puppets was $79 – that’s $397.75 today. A lot of money for a young teen.

But an opportunity came up for me to babysit at the local swimming pool during swim lessons. For the 8 weeks of summer, I earned about $75 – working twice a week for 3-4 hours. Because my birthday is in the summer, my mother made up the difference. Millie (as I called her) was $83 shipped.

When I was young, my mother worked very hard to support my sister and me as a single parent. She went to work no matter how she felt mentally or physically. No matter what the office drama was. This was a habit instilled in her by her mother and father. She went to work with a smile on her face and a purpose in her heart.

Starting with that job at 13, she began instilling in me the work ethic. When I wanted the jeans that everyone else had, I knew they weren’t in the budget. I got my second job the next summer.

Work ethic is the principles we live by in our business lives. It’s the unique, special blend of values like integrity, grit, accountability, and respect that drive results. In my youth, results equaled the things the better-off kids had. As an adult, those results include a sense of purpose as well as a roof over my head.

True work ethic comes from within. It’s a relentless mindset, not just compliance.

Work ethic means giving 100% when no one is watching. It’s embracing solutions over excuses and doing right over what’s convenient.

Every day, we vote with our behavior to strengthen or erode our work ethic. There’s no faking it – clients and colleagues see through to our true priorities. That’s why work ethic matters. It’s the foundation for credibility and trust.

My daughter got into competitive cheerleading as a first grader and stuck with it until graduation. That allowed me, with the help of her coaches, to instill the work ethic she would need in life. You can’t put a flyer in the air if the base is gone – she was a very strong base.

I’m proud to say that she now has a very strong work ethic. She shows up, does her best and really feels it when someone else on the “team” isn’t doing their part. And there have been plenty of days when she just wanted to stay home (adulting is hard!). She exudes accountability and trust.

Is work ethic on the decline? It seems so. Can you do something about it? Yes!

Every generation has the opportunity to lead by example and mentor others when it comes to work ethic. Every day is a choice to do better and be better. Show up for others, be accountable, and hang in there when the going gets tough.

That’s my message for the week. Let’s all work together to instill those important values in the new workers coming up. Remember, even if you don’t think so, people are watching to see how you work.

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