Sunday, March 8, 2015

Cleaning Up America One Quiet, Noble Act at a Time: A Self-Action Leadership Example from the Floors of Costco

Yesterday, my wife, son, and I went to Costco for lunch (Costco makes my favorite pizza!). After finishing my food, I sat staring off into the distance when I noticed a little boy drop his drink on the floor. In the worst possible timing, his father swung his foot around right as the cup hit the ground, causing the drink’s contents to not just spill, but to spray all over the smooth, concrete floor.

Sadly, the father’s response was not proactive, but reactionary, whereby he forthwith began to scold his son’s careless action that led to the embarrassing mess that now lay before them. Hanging his head in shame, the young boy covered his face with his hands as his father—who made no moves to clean up the mess—continued to stealthily communicate his disapproval of his son's carelessness.

Enter Jordan. No, not me; I remained a passive side-observer of the unfolding scene. The Jordan I speak of was a teenage Costco employee, complete with Costco name tag, uniform, apron, and food preparation hair net.

Armed with a roll of paper towels, Jordan leapt proactively to the scene and began cleaning up the mess. And boy did he clean up the mess! By the time he was done, there was not the slightest drop or streak of liquid remaining. All the while, the father of the little boy continued to stand idly by reactively watching Jordan work.

As Jordan was mopping up the last few drops of spilled drink, an elderly man walked by with pizza in one hand and his paper cup in the other. Losing his balance slightly, the man squeezed the top of his full cup, causing the upper contents of his drink to spill all over the floor, making another mess to cover half again the space of the sizable spill Jordan had just finished fixing.

Undaunted, Jordan unflinchingly turned his full attention and energy toward the second mess with the same passion, enthusiasm, focus, and dedication as he had the first spill. As I sat watching all this (I could have helped myself, but was busy holding my toddler son on my lap), I became so impressed with Jordan, that after he had finished his work, I called him over to where I was sitting. After commending him for his fine cleaning job, I asked him if I could take his picture and include it in a blog I planned to write and publish about his simple, yet heroic actions. I also asked him for his e-mail address so I could send him a copy of my article after it was published.

Very professionally, he explained I could not take his picture because he was representing Costco in an official uniform, and would have to get permission from his supervisors to do so. Not wanting to embarrass him (I think he was already a bit weirded out by my unorthodox requests), I did not press the issue any further. I was, however, further impressed by his humble reply to my offer. He simply said: “It’s okay; I don’t do what I do for credit or attention. I am just doing my job.” Then he modestly added, “Thanks, though.”

While I am probably publishing this at Jordan’s chagrin, and while I do not have a picture of this fine young man to accompany the piece as I would have liked, I could not keep from doing what I could to honor the simple, yet spectacular, actions of this extraordinary, ordinary [1] young self-action leader. Thank you, Jordan, for your example of what SAL means in the most common of circumstances, and for proceeding honorably in your work without seeking for any credit or public adulation for your good works.

In a sense, it is sad that such a simple act of "doing one's job" came across to me as being so unusual--even spectacular. It is a sign of how relatively rare such actions often are in this world. It often seems a diminishing few individuals exhibit the kind of stellar Self-Action Leadership that Jordan did during his shift at Costco yesterday.

I remember a few years ago spilling something on the floor of an In-N-Out fast food restaurant. Maybe it is just my OCD, but it is unthinkable for me to make such a blunder without taking responsibility for my mistake. Grabbing a handful of napkins, I proceeded to clean up the mess I had made. An older gentlemen, who, unbeknownst to me, had noticed my actions, remarked to me with a wistful sense of sadness, "Wow, it is rare these days to see someone actually clean up after themselves." His comment made me feel sad.

Costco needs more employees like Jordan. Schools and organizations everywhere need more Costco Jordans. Conroe needs more Costco Jordans. Texas needs more Costco Jordans. The other 49 States in America needs more Costco Jordans. The World needs more Costco Jordans. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about myself, but this young Costco employee, although this Jordan—imperfect though I am—does try to be the best self-action leader I can be. And at day’s end, that is all I ask of me—and it is all I ask of YOU.

From the floors of Costco to Costco's executive suites in Seattle, we need more self-action leaders. From the trenches of Iraq and Afghanistan to the plush offices of Generals and Admirals in Washington, we need more self-action leaders. From the high rises of Manhattan to the back alleys of Brooklyn, we need more self-action leaders. From children on the playground to principles and professors in classrooms and administrative offices, we need more self-action leaders. From the local voting booth to Governor's mansions, Capitol Hill, the Oval Office—and everywhere in between—we need more self-action leaders, and we need them badly.

Learn a lesson from and be inspired by Jordan, the young man who, on his hands and knees, and without fanfare or tips, cleaned up a floor in Costco that needed cleaning, and did it with the same energy and professionalism that I'll bet Costco's CEO -- W. Craig Jelinek -- expects of himself and his entire executive team in Issaquah, Washington.

Invest this same kind of energy and quality in their work--no matter what that work might be--and to perform it as if you were composing some masterful piece of literature, creating some genius piece of art, or designing some state-of-the art physical structure. Jordan is a young man who is destined for greater things. Here is truly a young man who has embraced the challenge laid down for all humanity by the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote potery. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.’"

About the Author 


Dr. Jordan R. Jensen
Dr. Jordan Jensen is the Founder & CEO of Freedom Focused and the author of the groundbreaking new book, Self-Action Leadership: The Key to Personal, Professional, & Global Freedom.  He has trained business professionals in 47 U.S. States and Territories, 5 Provinces of Canada, and 9 Counties of Great Britain on a wide variety of soft-skill topics including leadership, self-leadership, management, time management, goal setting, strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, and a variety of communication skills. To learn more about Dr. Jensen and how his company, Freedom Focused, can assist you in achieving your organizational potential, visit www.freedomfocused.com

To buy Jordan's new book, click HERE.




[1] Rice, C. (2010). Extraordinary, Ordinary People.

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