Going the extra mile

by David Oliver

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
— Confucius

The other day I was riding the bus on my way to work after dropping my kid at school. Granted, I don’t use transit as much as I should, but nonetheless I did that day. And one thing that struck me was the driver’s behaviour. 

He not only drove flawlessly, was friendly and careful, but he did something I’ve never seen before from a bus driver. At each stop, he not only announced the closest street crossing so we could get our bearings, but he also pointed out the sightseeing activities, important sites, etc. that were close by. And, he did that for every single stop! 

Think about it. By giving us that helpful information, the driver showed an amazing display of understanding of the value that the bus and his job, provides to riders. He clearly understands his value is not just about taking people to their destination, but that they might benefit from information about the location, or suggestions for things to do, see and experience nearby.

I think it is safe to say that the driver took his own initiative, rather than being trained to do that do this (and if he was trained to do so, kudos to the bus company). This is a great example of someone seeing beyond his or her job duties and understanding that the value of their job is measured by the clients, in this case the riders. Increasing public transport ridership benefits the bus company, and accordingly benefits the bus driver with greater job security.

There is a lesson here for everyone. We all perform certain jobs and tasks to accomplish something. But like that driver, we should look beyond our duty and try to understand the bigger value we can add. To this end, it’s helpful to ask ourselves:

  • What are our customers’ needs and best interests?
  • How does our work help meet those needs?
  • Do we see beyond the most immediate needs? 

At Wazuku my colleagues and I provide expert counsel to clients in need of specific support. Customers rely on me to give them the best advice and guidance on complex topics related to their business and/or major projects. Sometimes their needs are geared towards minimizing risk, sometimes about maximizing throughput. Sometimes it’s about peace of mind. Whatever it is, we proactively search for that ultimate need and do everything it takes to meet it. Just like the bus driver – he woke up that same morning and actively decided to make an extra effort, and boy did he!

Opportunity is missed by most because is it dressed in overalls and looks like work.
— Thomas Edison

You could argue that he probably loved his job, and that was the reason why he decided to go a step further without being asked to. And you might be right. To quote Confucius, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” That’s where I believe organizations play a key role in incentivizing this kind of behaviour. We all should act like the bus driver, without expecting anything in return. But the reality is that most will not, so organizations must look for ways to support individuals acting like this regularly, until it becomes part of the company’s culture. 

But for now, let’s all cheer that anonymous bus driver, and let his dedication influence us all in our daily jobs.  

David Oliver has been going the extra mile for his clients for more than 15 years. He has national and international business and major project management experience in many jurisdictions, including stints in North America and Europe, the Middle East and Africa.