I attended private school from 4th-12th grade. Our grading system didn’t follow the traditional A, B, C model. We received grades on a similar scale – i.e., E for Excellent, H for High, C for Creditable – but every teacher assigned two grades: one for Attitude and Effort, one for Achievement. They also prepared written reports to accompany the grades.
There were undoubtedly students and parents who appreciated this method of being evaluated but I hated it. Academically, I excelled. In certain classes, however, I was bored and acted out. My Attitude and Effort grades in those classes reflected this behavior. On a few occasions, one teacher wrote, “Easily distracted and distracts others.” (Come to think of it, maybe two teachers wrote this on my report cards.)
As a kid I didn’t give a hoot. But if I received anything below an H in Attitude and Effort, it bothered my dad a lot. Results matter, he used to say, but so does the process. We went back and forth about this issue for a few years. Eventually, I came to share his opinion.
About 10 years ago, I went to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to fly to Philadelphia. Typically I check my bags curbside (it’s faster) but because I had changed my flight and was traveling standby, I needed to speak to an agent. Shortly after I got in line, I became aware of a lot of noise coming from behind the ticket counter. The reason: An employee of the airline was hoisting suitcases up in the air and slamming them on the conveyer belt to send them to the handlers who would then load the bags onto the planes. I watched in amazement for several minutes. Hoist, slam. Hoist, slam. This employee appeared to slam the bags down as hard as he could. It was strange. The ticket agents didn’t say a word about his actions.
At the time I was too dumbfounded to speak up. I knew that what mattered was whether the luggage arrived without damage, on time, at the correct destination. Mine did. Still, I didn’t think this employee’s behavior was necessary, let alone appropriate. Maybe he was having a lousy day. Maybe he was working overtime and frustrated. But with scores of customers on hand to observe his behavior, I think someone should have pointed out that what he was doing wasn’t acceptable. Process matters.
On occasion a client or prospect needs us to jump through hoops with flames, has outlandish expectations of turnaround time, cost or results, or is impatient because of his or her own pressures. When this happens I try to keep a smile on my face, a spirit in my voice, and a friendly tone in our email exchanges. I'm certain this approach has helped keep our clients satisfied -- and loyal.
Maybe it’s time I tell my dad he was right – that attitude and effort matters.