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The 10 Commandments for (Not Only) Career Success

Dec. 29, 2020
These words of wisdom are solid advice for building a better workplace.

As I have mentioned in previous columns, I have had the pleasure of visiting Cardinal Manufacturing’s student business at a Wisconsin high school. I was struck by the wisdom of their display of the “Ten Commandments for Career Success” that was posted in their advanced manufacturing building. With the permission of the Nexen Group and Cardinal Manufacturing, I will share them with you. Each commandment is followed by commentary from me.

1. Be Positive

There are those who almost always see the glass as half empty instead of half full. It is part of their DNA and/or the result of home influences and experience. Leadership at all levels is accountable to engage the work teams and set the example. Even naturally negative people can get behind a common cause and participate in the process if only for the eight hours they are on the job. Once expectations have been communicated, it is up to the leaders to follow through and communicate, communicate, communicate.

2. Show Up

Be at your workstation on time. Of course, there will be times it is not possible, e.g., car trouble, unexpected traffic/wreck and such. Those occasions are understandable. But otherwise, BE ON TIME! Not being on time is a correctable disease. While at General Cable, I had a corner office near the employee entrance and saw the same people coming in the door 10 to 15 minutes late every morning. It is a bad habit and terribly inconsiderate of coworkers and to the company. It is also time the employee is being paid for not being at their workplace. Leave 15 minutes earlier. Problem solved. Make that a habit.

3. Work Hard

Working hard, of course, does not always mean physical labor. Those people work hard because of what they do: construction, running machinery, manual labor of any kind. Working hard in the office means your brain is fully engaged and focused on the work at hand. It may also require deep thought about how to plan and execute the work efficiently and effectively. It requires creativity and brainstorming with coworkers to improve the business with breakthrough ideas. Working hard means applying your best effort to whatever the job.

4. Get Along

Being in any kind of a work group, you will not like everyone you interact with on a personal basis. That is life. But it cannot affect how you perform at work. Whether in a conference room or on the phone, just stick to the business at hand, focus on the issues/discussions and make the right decisions for the company. Drama not allowed!

5. Pay It Forward

Pay it forward is an expression about when the recipient of an act of kindness does something kind for someone else rather than simply accepting or repaying the original good deed. Recently there was a news report that over 100 drivers got a free Dairy Queen treat from the driver of the car in front of them. Each one could have just driven away and enjoyed the “freebie,” but more than 100 didn’t. They paid it forward. Make your work a better place. If coworkers have questions, step forward to help. Volunteer to train others who are new to the job or who need a refresher. This is fundamental to creating the culture of continuous improvement. Look for ways you can contribute rather than wait for someone else to do it. Pay it forward.

6. Be Flexible

Nothing stamps out creativity and teamwork more than a knucklehead who is stubborn and refuses to consider other ideas. The objective is to find the best outcome for the company. That requires an open discussion of the pros and cons of each possibility. This obstinate type of personality is typically argumentative, not a good teammate and probably should go to work somewhere else, maybe with a little help from his/her manager.

7. Figure It Out

Few (if any) situations are impossible to solve. It becomes an exercise of putting the best minds on the subject together as a group to FIGURE IT OUT! This can be exhilarating work, even fun, to be a part of the discovery process. Sometimes this might be a huddle meeting at the machine. Other times it might be a huge corporate issue being addressed by vice presidents around the board room table. Whatever it is, just figure it out!

8. Join the Club

See Nos. 1-7 above!

9. No Whining

As Tom Hanks said so well in the movie “A League of Their Own,” there is no crying in baseball. That applies to the workplace as well. Nobody likes to work with a whiner. Frankly, few like to be around one who is such a negative presence. See No. 6 above.

10. Keep Learning

Learning is lifelong. Those who capture the learning opportunities that present themselves are more well-rounded and happier, too. Whether it is learning a foreign language, a new job, or learning to ski or play golf, learning new things is invigorating and brings new energy and excitement to one’s life.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.” -- Michel Legrand

“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” --  Brian Tracy 

“Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” -- Bill Bradley

Larry Fast answers your questions in the IndustryWeek feature Ask the Expert: Lean Leadership. Fast is founder and president of Pathways to Manufacturing Excellence and a veteran of 35 years in the wire and cable industry. He is the author of The 12 Principles of Manufacturing Excellence, A Lean Leader's Guide to Achieving and Sustaining Excellence, 2nd. Edition.

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