As a young manager working for a large hotel chain, Bill Keena was tasked with interviewing a group of MBA students for potential jobs. The HR leader handed him a list of questions to ask the fresh-faced recruits.
Bill cleared his throat. “Um, I know I’m new at this, but …”
“Yes?” the HR leader asked.
“I think they’ve practiced the answers to all of these questions.”
“What would you ask then?” the HR person wondered, not amused.
“I’d ask, ‘How will you motivate our dishwashers.’”
It’s a brilliant question, and one that the large hotel chain still uses today. According to Bill, who is now the general manager of the Rivers Casino near Chicago, there is only one correct answer: When the dishes are stacked high, as a manager you need to roll up your sleeves and start washing them, too. (For the record, only one MBA student got the answer right during Bill’s interviews that day and he was a former military officer.)
As anyone who’s worked in the hospitality industry knows, washing dishes isn't the most glamorous job out there. Rinsing half-eaten chunks of food into a sink full of a cat food-like concoction has little appeal for most people. But say you're the one working the sink. You're hot, sweaty, and your boss walks by in his suit and tie and offers a glib “keep up the good work, buddy.” You’d probably think that's about as helpful the crusty cheese stuck to the plate.
But what if your boss walked up and said, “Hey, it looks like you’ve got a ton going on. Let me lend you a hand.” There would simply be nothing more motivating.
And that's exactly the point: If we dig in and help rather than mutter "good job," we’ll build a sense of respect and engagement. So remember, no matter what you do, find a way to help out to strengthen your culture.