Thursday, June 7, 2012

Vision and Purpose-"Every time you drive this car, your safety is in my hands"

Yesterday I had the windshield replaced on one of my cars.  These days a mobile repairman comes to your home and replaces it on the spot rather than taking it to a repair shop.  I started a fairly lengthy conversation with the repairman as he did his work.  I asked how he got into the windshield repair business  Answer:  He went to work for a friend's family business when he got out of the Army.  I asked how he was trained.  Answer:  On the job training, but now most training is provided by the company in exchange for a 3 year commitment/contract.  I asked about certification/accreditation.  Answer:  Certification required every two years..combination of written and hands on demonstration of tasks.  I asked about government regulation and audit.  Answer:  Federal OSHA(Occupational Safety and Health administration) audit certifications.  I commented that that seemed like a lot of administration/regulation for the windshield repair business.  The repairman stopped work, looked at me and said "Oh no, sir.  Anytime you get in this car from now on, your safety is in my hands."

I couldn't help but be impressed by this simple explanation of vision and purpose.  This repairman knew he wasn't in the windshield repair business but in the safety business.  I have to believe that his commitment to excellence, attention to detail and professionalism are driven by that simple understanding that "from now on, your safety is in my hands".

I don't know if he arrived at the broader frame on his own or a company leader helped him understand it.  All of my leadership experience leads me to believe the ability to articulate the broader help people draw a "line of sight' between their work and the real purpose is an important task of leaders.  It helps rationalize sacrifice, clarify objectives, focus effort and inspire commitment.  To the point of this story, it doesn't need to be a grand, world-changing vision.  It can be as simple as letting people know they are in the safety business, not the windshield repair business.


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