Here’s a basic life principle that is foundational for work: At the end of the day you always work with people. No matter what work you are doing the most important thing about whatever you are doing is how what you are doing affects people. Let’s consider some of the basic ways our work affects people.
At the intersection between people and work are two core concepts: value and service. If what you do serves people, and creates value for people, then you are doing something important, worthwhile, and probably successful. On the other hand if what you are doing doesn’t serve people, or create value for people, then it is usually not something that is worth doing.
The Only Way to Get Paid
Creating value for other people is the only way to get paid. People only pay for something they think is worth more than the value of the money they are paying. At the end of the day, no matter what kind of business model you are in, you get paid for creating value for people.
It’s easy to lose sight of this principle and this lesson, but successful people, people who make a difference, never forget this. It’s easy to understand this lesson in direct sales. You have an item that you are selling directly to a buyer. Your buyer determines if the item you are selling is worth more to him than the money you are asking. If it is then the sale is made.
The lesson is sometimes harder to see in less direct situations, but is it still present and operating. Your boss pays you to sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, and wash the windows of the convenience store where you work. You need to create value that is worth more than you are being paid if you want your employer to continue to pay you. Your boss is operating on the assumption that a clean store, with clean restrooms, and clear windows that show off the items on sale attracts and retains customers. Those customers collectively spend much more money that she is spending on paying you to do the cleaning. You are indirectly creating value.
Your work cleaning the store helps attract customers to visit the first time, and perhaps visit again later. The purchases that the customers make create value for your employer. Your employer shares some of that value with you by paying you your wages. Ultimately you are creating value for your employer; by doing work (and creating value) that directly impacts the store’s customers.
Effective, Very Effective, and Really Successful People
Effective people will always take the time to figure out which people are directly and indirectly affected by the value they are creating. Very effective people will determine which people, or what person, is the most important to maximize value for. In a direct sales situation the most important person to maximize value for is the buyer. At the convenience store the most important person to maximize value for is your boss. Maximized value for your boss means you have a place to work and better prospects for a raise.
Really successful people learn where they need to focus on maximizing value the most to get the greatest increase in value for the most important person. Average employees clean the restrooms at the convenience store once a day because that’s what the boss tells them to do. Unusually successful employees learn that clean restrooms are one of the most important factors that attract return customers. Consequently they clean the bathrooms every hour, even if the boss doesn’t require it. Cleaner bathrooms results in more return customers and more sales which directly benefits your boss. More created value for your boss means more value for you (if this isn’t the result really successful people find new employment).
Service means that you create value for a person with no expectation of something in return. Few things in life are as rewarding as serving other people. The same principle applies to service as to value: Ultimately you serve people.
If you meet someone who tells you he is unemployed and can’t feed his family and you go to the store and buy him groceries then you have served that person. You have given him and his family something of value with no expectation of return.
It’s Always About People
The rule applies no matter what kind of service you are doing; it is always about serving people. You decide to volunteer for your local state park and spend several weekends at the park doing habitat restoration work for native wildlife. Your service directly benefits the local wildlife population, but it will only be successful if it also clearly benefits people.
Perhaps people in your area value seeing local wildlife, and subsequently enjoy visiting the park more, bringing public attention that results in more habitat restoration. Perhaps the park superintendent is delighted because she is now able to report to her supervising state agency that she has met her habitat restoration goals, resulting in increased resources for the park that leads to more and better habitat restoration. It is the service that directly affects people that leads to success.
Together is Better
You will be most effective when you combine value and service. If you serve people in a business so that they feel like they have received far more value than what they paid for you will win customers for life, and make yourself much more valuable to your employer.
If you focus on maximizing the value you create for the people you are serving then your service will become vastly more effective. If you not only bought groceries for your unemployed neighbor, but you also committed to meeting him once a week to coach him in job skills you will have greatly increased the value of your service to him. If you also connected him to your network so he was able to get some interviews and job offers you have no only increased the value of what you have given him, you have given him the opportunity to create value as well.
Serving others by giving enough value so that they, in turn, can begin to create value for others is the foundation of truly effective service. Being clear on who you are ultimately creating value for, and then increasing that value to the point that you are serving that person in the most effective way is the fastest way to increase your value to your customers and employer.
Consider, Ask, and Apply
No matter what work you are doing the most important thing about whatever you are doing is how what you are doing affects people. Always take the time to apply this statement to your work and service. Ask and answer these questions: Who am I directly creating value for or serving? Who am I indirectly creating value for or serving? What could I do to maximize the amount of value I am creating for that person? What could I do to be the most effective in serving that person?
The more value you deliver, and the more you serve, the bigger impact you will have on the people around you, and the bigger difference you will make in the world.