By Jim Bagnola, international speaker
One day, I walked into a hotel’s lobby in Dallas. Needing a shoeshine, I looked around and saw a shoe stand and a gentleman who seemed to be preparing to call it a day. I hustled over and asked if he had time for one more shine. He was wearing a crisp, white shirt and a bow tie. I sat down. He began to meticulously roll up the cuffs of my pants and lay out his tools of trade. I noticed that it was after six o’clock. “When did you start your day?” I asked. “Oh, around seven this morning.” “You’ve been here for nearly twelve hours? And you still look fresh!” “I guess that’s because I love my job.”
“May I ask you how old you are?” “I’m 72. And healthy and happy”, he said.
“And you worked twelve hours today?” “Yes, I work twelve hours most days.” I was amazed. He continued, “Well, to be honest, I do love my job, but my wife doesn’t want me at home all day. You know how it is after many years of marriage.” We laughed. I introduced myself and he responded with a hearty handshake and his name: Leroy Grant. “Well, how long have you been a shoe shiner, Leroy?” He looked up at me with a serious look on his face and said, “Excuse me, but I am not a shoe shiner.” “Sorry,” I said. “What is your profession?” “I am a leather technician.” When he saw my confusion, he explained: “A shoe shiner is just a shoe shiner. A leather technician is an artist. I’m an artist. I’m going to give you the best shine you’ve ever had, and then I’m going to guarantee my work.” I’ve had my shoes shined all over the world but nobody had ever guaranteed their work. “What does that mean?” I asked. “I am gonna shine your shoes until you are happy. Then you should be able to buff them up to a nice, glossy shine for the next two weeks. If you can’t do that, you come right back in here and I will shine them again, free. No charge. Now, if you walk through mud and puddles, you’re on your own! My caring for your leather doesn’t end until you are satisfied. That’s my guarantee!” “I got it, Leroy, and I’m impressed. You really do love your job, I can tell.” “Love my job?” he exclaimed. “Look at me! I don’t have a boss looking over my shoulder. I am the boss! Look at my office!” He gestured to the large, fancy hotel lobby. “Look over there,” he said, pointing at a nearby bank of public pay phones. “Those are my private phones. My wife, kids and friends can call me. You know, I put all my kids through school doing this. If you come and I’m not here, you might meet one of them. My son is my vice president. He’s a leather technician as well.” “How long have you been doing this?” “Sixty years!”
Make a living, not a dying
I was inspired. I don’t know about you but I want to do business with people like Leroy. In fact, I want to be like Leroy Grant. I want to view everything I do in a positive manner. I want to love what I’m doing and be happy with myself when I’m 72. Leroy seemed happy and healthy. He put his kids through school and supported his family for over sixty years doing a job he genuinely loved. Leroy Grant is a Professional Human Being. How many people do you know who approach their work like Leroy Grant? Do you approach your job with joy and purpose? Have you creatively transformed your job into an art form? Are you on a self-created mission? Do you enjoy your customers? Are you happy to be of service to those counting on your expertise? Do you guarantee your work? Are you delighted to be at work? Have you turned Pro like Leroy has? If you can’t answer yes to most of these questions, your health and the health of the organization you belong to might be at stake! The organization will never be what the individuals are not.
I educate executives, managers, and employees worldwide in business and government, to be peak performers in an uncertain, stressful, and unhealthy workplace. I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years for repeat clients that include Fortune 500 companies, federal and state agencies, and small privately held companies. What sets me apart and appeals to audiences is my emphasis on the mind/body/work connection.
In my workshops, I link the consequences of thinking and actions at work not just to performance, but directly to health. I show people how their time at work should contribute to their health and rejuvenation and not, as is the norm, contribute to health problems and premature death. I tell them about my wise friend, Leroy Grant. The advice I share with my audiences is this: Make a living, not a dying. My approach resonates with a wide range of people who don’t connect their jobs to their health and longevity. It’s necessary to transform negative, self-defeating, disease-promoting thoughts into attitudes that generate creativity, productivity, fulfillment, and harmonious relationships. The result of this is better health for you and your organization. The fact is that the organization will never be what the individuals are not. John Howard, Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, recently said, “If we’re going to keep improving productivity, we have to make sure that we keep workers healthy.”
For employees, I focus on self-management—the fundamental importance of the relationship we have with our own selves. Until you improve your relationship with yourself, you can’t improve your ability to be hired, promoted, achieve goals, and enhance work relationships.
For employers and managers, these very same individual improvements contribute to organizational goals of increased capacity and productivity, along with decreased health-care costs. In today’s workplace, the common reality is just the opposite: decreased capacity and productivity and increased health-care costs. The inspiration for my approach draws from Galileo’s premise: “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it within himself.” Accordingly, I strive to turn people inward, then upside down, and awaken them to the reality of their own uniqueness, greatness, and capacity!
Turn your thinking upside down
Notice how Leroy Grant viewed his job. Most people might consider Leroy’s job somewhat on a lower level but this gentleman elevated his work to a supreme level, a totally professional level. By any standard, he turned his vocation into a successful and fulfilling endeavor. What some may think of as menial labor, he viewed as art. While some view shoe-shining as a throwaway task, he guaranteed his work. What some may consider as a spot tucked in the corner, he viewed as his corner office with a view of the entire hotel lobby. While some may view his work as hired help, he knew he was his own boss.
Leroy turned his thinking upside down. He took many negatives and turned them into positives simply by looking at them in a different way. In fact, they were never negatives to Leroy. There are many aspects of your life in which your thinking can be turned upside down. Think upside down! Your thinking then is the real bottom line. It is what shapes your quality and quantity of life. And who else is responsible for your thinking except you? It’s pretty much all in our heads.
Research says that we generate about 60,000 thoughts a day. Essentially, not a second of your day goes by without your thinking a thought. And each of those thoughts is made up of words. People tell you to “think fast!” You already do! You think between 500 and 1,200 words a minute. That adds up to over a million words in a day! That’s how fast we can think. But thank God we don’t speak that fast! On average we speak about 150 words a minute, and that’s only 15,000 to 25,000 words a day.
So think about that. If we think over a million words and speak only 15,000 to 25,000, whom are we talking to most of the time? Obvious, eh? The chat line between me and myself, and you and yourself, is always busy. And all those thoughts and words—our mental operating programs—influence the actions and choices that affect how we work, relate with others, how healthy we are, the speed at which we age, and how long we live. Summed up, thoughts influence everything.
The 5 laws of becoming a Professional Human Being
Who is a professional human being, anyway? If I ask you to describe the qualities of a Professional Human Being, what would they be? In my Professional Human Being workshops, I invite participants to write down what they feel are the qualities of a Professional Human Being. Perhaps the most insightful answer I ever received is this one: A Professional Human Being is a positive role model I would like to emulate.
In my opinion, these are the five laws of becoming a Professional Human Being:
- Primary Beneficiary — I am the main and first beneficiary of everything I think, do, and say. When I sow positivity, I harvest growth and good health. When I sow negativity, I harvest the undesirable effects of that thinking and behavior, which may include a lack of good health.
- Relationship — The most important relationship I have is the one I have with myself. This relationship is created by the manner in which I relate or talk to myself. It forms the basis for all other relationships and has a profound influence on my health, success, happiness, and capacity to lead.
- 3. Outcomes — Every choice has physiological outcomes. Every choice I make has physiological outcomes: either health-producing or disease-producing. Every choice has consequences.
- Help — I cannot help another without helping myself. Accordingly, I cannot possibly harm another without harming myself. I will always experience what I desire for others.
- Body — Body follows mind. Everything I think, do, and say causes a physiological response within myself. I do things primarily for this response within myself, not for the response it has in others.
My advice to Romanian managers: Be hungry for knowledge!
After 16 years of working in Romania my advice for managers and employees would be to continue to be hungry. Hungry for new knowledge, hungry for greater success and hungry to be more competitive in the global marketplace. I love the desire that Romanians have for a better work environment, a better life and a better Romania. Continue this good code, some other long term developed countries are losing this edge.
In in order to improve the organization’s efficiency and productivity, Romanian managers need to learn how to let go when delegating. When delegating be completely clear about what the employee has complete control of, what direct reports must report back to you on concerning the task and what must be discussed with you before taking further action. Then let go for a certain specified, agreed upon time and then follow up and follow through making sure the task or project is complete. Don’t think that one conversation and one delegation interaction is enough. Follow up!
Jim Bagnola (67) is an international speaker, an executive coach, and a corporate educator. He is an expert in the field of leadership and mind-body management, focusing on the influence of thinking patterns on health, happiness, success, and the capacity to lead.
For over 30 years, he has been speaking and educating worldwide on the topics of Leadership, Stress Management, Customer Service, Coaching and Change.
Jim was awarded the designation of CSP, Certified Speaking Professional, a recognition conferred by the National Speakers Association and the International Federation for Professional Speakers. This designation has only been awarded to about six hundred professional speakers worldwide. This qualifies him as one of North America’s top-rated speakers. Leadership Gurus International listed him among the “World’s Top 30 Leadership Professionals.”
Jim values his ongoing opportunity of influencing and interacting meaningfully with both private and public sector organizations. This includes: Shell Oil Company, The Kroger Company, US Secret Service, US Department of State, Department of the Air Force, The United Nations Development Program, Marriott Hotels, Siemens, Motorola, NASA etc.