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Who Makes The Coffee?

Is there a job that you think is beneath you? Has your education, position, title, or wealth elevated you beyond performing mundane tasks?

My friend Todd Thompson shares this story from his sales career…

My first General Agent was Whitey Thompson (no relation). Whitey was the quintessential old school life insurance man, in the very best sense of the word. Sharply dressed, always smiling, always enthusiastic, and always made you feel important. He genuinely cared about his clients and the agents who worked with and for him. He led by example in his work ethic.

Whitey had an agency support staff of five people. This particular day was the first day on the job for a new secretary. Whitey had been in conference all morning with an established client, working out the details on a large case. Their meeting had gone for several hours when he buzzed the desk and asked the new secretary to come in. Whitey introduced her to his client and then politely asked if she would bring them some coffee as they continued their work. 

The new secretary informed Whitey and his client that she was a highly skilled secretary and bringing coffee to people was not in her job description. In no uncertain terms, she made sure they knew that bringing coffee was beneath her. Whitey graciously said, “No problem” and walked downstairs to get the coffee himself.

Her point made, the new secretary returned to her desk. The office manager said, “I wouldn’t get too comfortable if I were you.”

The new hire snorted, “Why not?”

“Who do you think makes the coffee?”

Whitey was always the first to arrive at the office. Usually around 6 AM. And Whitey always made the coffee. He wanted to be sure it was ready and waiting for his team when they arrived.

Good leaders understand that serving others doesn’t stop when you get to the top of the ladder. While the duties of a CEO are different than an entry level employee or mid-level manager, the best executive officers are the ones who realize no job is beneath them. And they realize that by remembering all the jobs they did on the climb up the ladder.

Whitey was the boss. And the boss made the coffee. Why? Because good leaders understand that little things matter.

Oh, and what happened to Whitey’s new secretary? Her first lunch break was a long one. She probably picked up a newspaper when she stopped for a sandwich. That’s what most people do when they’re looking for a new job.