red line

Clean Dishes and the Virtues of "Above and Beyond-ness"

Who do I strive to be in my organization? Who on my team do I want to spend time and energy developing? Who do I see being a long-term cultural fit?

Who do I strive to be in my organization? Who on my team do I want to spend time and energy developing? Who do I see being a long-term cultural fit vs. someone who might jump ship for the next shiny opportunity?

The dishwasher.

Within every organization there exists an invisible barrier — a barrier dictating how much someone is willing to give of themselves each day:

“Am I going to stay an extra 45 minutes to knock out that client proposal?”

“Do I care enough about my team’s challenges to sit down with someone in a different department and help them think through solutions?”

“Am I going to raise my hand and take the lead on this project, or hope someone else handles it?”

The Thing About Barriers

I suppose the most common manifestation of this sentiment is the dreaded “that’s not my job.” Oh boy… As a leader, when’s the last time you heard an employee say that and said to yourself, “You know, I really respect your stance on boundaries.” Likely not very often…

The thing about barriers is that they’re often (properly) associated with negativity. If you’re building a powerful and capable team, you’re going to want barrier-breakers.

Now, back to dirty dishes.

(I’ve got a gift for segues)

You see, the simple action of cleaning up the office kitchen may seem inconsequential, but it’s actually kind of profound.

Not convinced? Here’s what I mean:

  • You’re action-oriented. This mentality is valuable in many key roles within an organization. Put simply, you get s#!t done.
  • You’re self-motivated. You don’t need anyone telling you something needs doing. You’re not going to walk out of the kitchen thinking, “meh, someone else will get to it eventually.”
  • You’re a craftsperson. You take pride in a tidy environment. You appreciate things being in their proper places.
  • You’re respectful. You respect your work environment and maintain a sense of pride.
  • You’re a team player. Perhaps most importantly, you’re outward-facing. You’re team-conscious and conscientious.


Now—I’m not suggesting you head off to the nearest Red Lobster and start poaching kitchen staff. That’s not likely to do Red Lobster (nor your organization) any favors.

Instead, actively seek out and recognize these qualities of proactivity and “above and beyond-ness” in your team. And this isn’t exclusive to scrubbing plates, either. Think about the last person who brought in snacks for the office. Or the individual selflessly giving advice to help another succeed.

These easily missable behaviors, more often than not, represent a certain level of dedication to your organization—or at the very least, provide some sort of insight into important characteristic traits. And that’s worth noting.

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