“Young man, please step away from the wall!”


“Young man, please step away from the wall!”

The college-age employee turned, looked at me, and then—beaming slightly—stepped back from his work.

Aiming my iPhone camera, I asked …

“So, did you know that along with making Venti, 8-pump, single shot, nonfat, extra caramel, extra hot, upside down, caramel macchiatos—you’d also be cleaning urinals?”

Brightly, he said, “Yes, sir! My sister worked here before me. I knew exactly what I’d be doing.”

Excellent attitude, I thought. No griping, whining, complaining, or bemoaning. He’s no victim. He’s happy to be employed.

When I finished (taking the picture, that is), he went back to scrubbing.

No, wait, he wasn’t scrubbing, he was … polishing.

Yes, he was polishing the pipes!

This all took place a couple of weeks ago in the men’s room at the Starbucks of Dumont, Colorado, nestled in the Rocky mountains. I was in awe, but not just of the scenery outside.

I was in awe of this young man.

For those of us old enough to remember car phones (yes, I said car, not cell) who are convinced the work mentality of young people today is more like “What do you mean I can’t take a two-week European vacation 90 days after starting here!?” than the attitude I saw in this fella, here’s the good news:

Pride still lives.

Pride—truly a multiple-meaning word. It can be negative, as in “pride goeth before a fall.” It can be humbling, as in “swallowing my pride.” And, written vertically, it can be instructive!







Ha ha, I like that … and not just because it fits the acrostic!

Doing Excellence.

People today often talk about “doing life.” That’s cool, but how about doing life in an excellent way?”

Food for thought:

Am I taking personal responsibility for the quality of my work? 

Am I going the extra mile, giving 100%?

Am I modeling excellence for my kids, staff, colleagues, and/or customers? 

I visited the Dumont Starbucks again this week. I didn’t need to use the bathroom, but I went into it anyway.

I wanted to see the urinal.

I was not disappointed.

I could see myself in the gleaming pipes!

And, I must admit I felt a twinge of pride because I’d met the person responsible for the excellent work in front of me—the work of a person who cares enough to polish the plumbing.

I want to be more like that.

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24 Responses

  1. We seem to like to generalize that the previous generation was better in this or worse in something else. I still strongly believe in humanity and view it more as those individuals who take pride in their work still do and those who don’t potentially never will understand the value in it. And I don’t see it trending up or down but running fairly flat I’m not jaded as much as I see people being pretty much the same over the centuries.

  2. I read QBQ a couple of years ago now and we teach the concepts as part of our mutual mentoring/leadership series at work. I think of the concepts in the book often, and frequently recommend the book to friends and colleagues. When I read this story about the young man polishing the urinal pipe it made me think back to about a week ago when a college friend that resides in Colorado asked her facebook friends to guess which Starbucks location was not only the #1 busiest in the state of Colorado, but in the top 10 in the country I thought to myself….If the urinals are shining, it’s got to be a sign of the accountability of the employees…it must be successful all around. Sure enough when I went back to check the answer on my friends facebook it was the Dumont location. I was not at all surprised…after your story I expected it to be Dumont. I have no idea how big Dumont is…I imagine there are probably larger populated areas in Colorado with Starbucks, but if the Urinal shines..think about how great the service and coffee must be!!!

    QBQ has helped me to change my frame of mind on many occasions ( I have to sometimes give myself daily reminders) but that also works well in teaching the concepts with our staff…..we can choose every day…with every situation…every interaction to have personal accountability. I know QBQ has had a wonderfully positive impact on many of my colleagues and as a result our organization. Thank you!!!

  3. I think the question is more related to, do we take pride in ourselves. I recently viewed a presentation on motivation and how many of our employees provide tons of work to others, for free! Why do they do this, they like the feeling of making a contribution to something bigger then themselves. Do we take pride in our employees? I tell people that if you give me 15 minutes walking around my hospital or any hospital I can find something we can all be proud of and want to share. If you support an environment that allows individuals to feel like they are making a difference I think they will demonstrate pride in what they do. It is a social ecosystem of mutual respect.

  4. Here is a bit of irony. In my youth I was accused of being a perfectionist – first by my mother, when cleaning the house. I use the word “accused” because the comment was not a compliment. I am naturally detail oriented, and take a great deal of pleasure in producing excellent results, in a timely manner. An associate stated, “You are the only person I know that can take an unpleasant process and somehow convince other’s that they are having fun!” For me, it’s the adventure of the challenge that’s fun.

    My employer expresses that my attitude and customer services skills with my detail mind and legal interpretive understanding have single-handedly changed the reputation of our department within our organization for the better.

    I am passionate about the level of service and accuracy of my work, serving the stakeholders as well as the clients. In my mind, this is my organization and everything matters. I give the same level of service to an entry level receptionist, as I would a top level executive. I will make sure their request is satisfied in a timely manner, and if I can’t satisfy their request, I will make sure that I direct them to the right person who can. I do not EVER drop the ball, or express, “That’s not my job.”

    Until two years ago, I’ve never been a time card employee. I was hired as a salaried employee. I owned my own business for 10 years. However, due to government regulations, company policy, and employment laws, the above qualities of my performance are noted and appreciated in my performance reviews; however, it has been expressed in writing that the security of my position is dependent on clocking out for lunch at an exact time, and taking the full one hour lunch (not clocking back in early) and clocking out at the end of the day on time or earlier. If I am in the middle of a complex issue, involving several departments, that could affect submitting a fully executed government contract on time, or an employees payroll, or a sales staff member’s commission, I’m supposed to raise my hands and walk away, leaving it undone, regardless of how doing so will affect other’s. The only thing that matters or threatens my employment is clocking in and out at exactly the right time. I may actually lose my job because I take such personal pride in my performance, customer service, and responsibility toward others.

    The message is: Care less about your performance and more about watching the clock. I am seriously concerned about the future, if this is the message.

  5. Hi John,
    I love this oneI PRIDE is alive and well here at Interprint. We have a PRIDE award that we give out annually to one deserving employee at year end. I think you will like our PRIDE award definition “The Interprint Pride Award (Personal Responsibility in Daily Events) is presented annually to the employee who takes ownership, seeks responsibility, and practices QBQ principles. A true role model for all. This individual embraces the Interprint core values of Creativity, Commitment, Passion and Performance. These values define who we are, and guide our judgments. The Interprint Pride Award promotes employees who seek solutions, and accept responsibility while practicing QBQ.” A nice plaque and a nice cash award go with this company wide recognition.
    Thanks for QBQ John!

  6. There is a convenience store in central and Southeast Texas called Buc-ee’s. They have the cleanest restrooms I have ever seen. In fact everything about Buc-ee’s is clean. You will even see people cleaning the gas pumps and trashcans by the pumps. We have to travel to Houston often for medical appointments and a stop at Buc-ee’s is always part of our plans. There are other reasons for stopping but clean restrooms are a definite hit.

  7. I have a young girl that started working for me as a volunteer at 15 years old. She would work her required hours then on her own time clean and service equipment. While waiting for new instructions she would help other employees or grab a rake or broom and tidy up the area until I could give her a new assignment.
    Most recently as a 17 year old employee, although brought to tears by angry coaches and parents over a 1 point mistake in a blow out game she finished the game. When I asked why she didn’t quit and go home her reply was because she gave me her word that she would do the job. She is remarkable!

  8. I began using a local dry cleaner 3 years ago because they offer same-day service and were close to my office. Although I now work at a different office across town, I still make the drive to this cleaner because their employees are SO friendly and fast. These young folks work in a hot, loud environment all day, dealing with customers who are not always nice. I doubt they are paid more than minimum wage, and their faces do change frequently. But they ALL smile, speak politely, and move fast – ALWAYS. Thanks for reminding me that I must show my appreciation more often.

  9. Great post John,
    After dinner last night we talked about what work ethic looks like and sounds like. It is one of the four qualities that one must hire b/c it is so difficult to teach. Those with a strong work ethic, work hard naturally; it is who they are, to perform otherwise would not sit right with them. In fact, I find those with a strong work ethic perform that way while at work and at play. I’m trying to instill this in my children b/c when it is displayed people take notice. Zig Ziglar said, great workers will always find a job, and I think he is alluding to what you saw.

  10. My father used to say that “there’s no shame in honest work”, but your point is a good one and I’d like to revise my father’s wisdom to instead “there’s pride in honest work.” Even if it’s merely cleaning pipes.

    Thanks for your post, I enjoyed it!

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