Focus Predicts Future
It was merely another bus stop maintenance crew that tumbled out of the van and collected brooms, trash bags, and shovels to attend to their duties. Except for gender and race, they initially appeared to be a homogeneous group. They worked together well, coordinating efforts in order to maximize outcome for effort. They were teams of workers.

Initially, the differences were imperceptible, but the people became classes of workers in the short ten minutes they spent on the site. As they worked in their safety day-glow orange caution vests, one could speculate on whether these people were all employees of MTA or whether some of them were individuals who were doing community service in order to pay off traffic citation fees. If the latter, this was a commendable choice because of the altruism, but it does little for the sake of networking and getting into venues that can advance one’s career.

On the other hand, networking is about building relationships. Relationships are important at every end of the organizational chart. The lowest person in the hierarchy may be the one who has a great deal of insight into many matters; because some deem them to have little importance, many forms of “intelligence” will be discussed in their presence. Some individuals really like their jobs and have no desire to do anything else. They know all the things that go into doing their job and how other parts of the office work with them. They also know how each affects the other. So being in this group is not a major networking mistake; it’s part of building a great foundation.

One worker efficiently used her broom in short shoves and achieved good results. She was agreeable to what she was instructed to do and went about it without delay or discussion. The person who’d given her guidance offered an over-the-shoulder observation to another team member about why she was working so fast. When she returned within earshot of the conversation, the team member was talking about timing. When they finished that stop, there would be time to “kick back” and then was lunch break.

It was time to investigate. “You see yourself getting this work done so that you can get to the better things. Is that true? And you don’t see yourself doing this forever. You see yourself advancing. True?” The observations were confirmed. “You’ve got the right attitude. Keep it up.”

While the affirmation was correct and was like a cheering crowd lining the route of a marathon, there was one element missing from the advice. No matter how different your goals are from your teammates, it’s very important to treat your team members with respect. You’re still a member of the team. The point of a team is cooperation in order to achieve the goal – getting the work properly done.

Their work on that stop was completed. They did not spend the next 20 to 30 minutes kicking back on that stop. Brooms were neatly returned to the wagon trailer hooked to the van. Excess bags were put into the storage cage and locked to avoid blowing and spilling. Collected trash was tossed into the open cage bin.

The workers trooped past. The people had a new look. It was possible to pick out which ones see this as a job that they will keep doing until there’s no more work. It was possible to see which ones were motivated to find a way to advance. There was more than one with that attitude. It was not necessary to brag about it. It just showed in the look on their face, the focus of their eyes, and something about the confidence of their step.

There was one more thing that exposed the one worker. Although subtle, as she passed me on the way to her seat in the van, she said, “Thank you.”