No shirt, no shoes, no service

While we’ve become very casual in our dress, there are still establishments that insist on doing business on their terms. In restaurants, “their terms” often are: No shirt, no shoes, no service. And, unless we’re really into pushing the envelope, if we don’t fall within those terms, we go elsewhere. In fact, most people don’t think much about it–if we’re not dressed for one place, we’ll go to another. And if we wanted to eat at a particular place, we would go dressed appropriately: we wouldn’t expect the owner to provide us with a shirt or shoes.
no shirt service 2
Yet, most people still expect their employers to provide them with a job, to provide them with job security and to give them a pay check every other week…whether they produce results or just warm the seats. Even though the rules for “being an employee” and “job security” have changed, employees expectations still haven’t changed much. I still hear those looking for work say, “I just need to find a stable place,” or “I really hope this is the last time I ever have to look for a job,” or “of course my skills are up to snuff, I was a VP!”

They don’t get it. Do you?

Employees today need to look and act more like consultants than, well, employees. Work is project-focused, and the # 1 characteristic needed by employers is flexibility–the ability to move quickly and change direction ‘on a dime.’ With competitors across the globe, most organizations really don’t need employees- – those people who get a paycheck regardless of whether they really produce or not–they need partners and consultants who come and go as the work does. Consultants who work steadily have the ability to morph their offerings into the service needed for the project at hand, no thanks to their ability to “read” what the organization has need of next. Consultants follow organizations’ missions, direction, competition and figure out their “pain”… and then provide services to ease or remove that pain. And partners…they do whatever it takes to drive success, and they do it without a job description!


Has your shirt kept up with the workplace and your organization’s industry? Are you ready, are your skills upgraded and improved so you’re ready to tackle new challenges, in new ways, to keep up with new competitors? Your department training budget has been cut…so? Pay attention to your own skills development, not only to keep up but to be ahead of the curve, and ahead of all the others who will be wearing better looking shirts when the company needs to ramp down one area and ramp up another.


Are your shoes tucked under your desk or are they moving you into alignment with your company’s shifting needs? If you’re sitting and waiting to be told what to do, or worse yet, playing the “that’s not my job” game, you’ll be sitting there until they shut down your email and don’t tell you why. Now’s the time to be curious, to be taking initiative, to be engaged with what your business and customers need. What new development is going on? How are next quarter’s objectives shifting the direction of your group or division? What new business direction can you see that would open up new client bases? Who can you pull together in a team to figure out how to reduce expenses (without being asked) and to increase or add customer services? This is one time you want to wear out your shoe leather proving your alignment with big and small business strategies.


Your service is what creates the partnership for a secure working relationship. As an employee, when’s the last time you intentionally looked at your organization’s competitors to see how your company stacks up? What services or products do they provide that your organization doesn’t? If your competitors have better customer service than you, what have you done about it? How do you get others in your company to come together and change your customer offerings? It’s not my job goes nowhere in today’s economy and harms every organization where this phrase is used…and it’s just a matter of time before it catches up with the employees who use it.

Clean up your shirt, polish your shoes and ramp up your service!

If you want to play the game, you have to look the part; to dance, you have to pay the piper. You make your own opportunities. When you provide excellence and quality that clearly support the organization’s mission, and when you care enough to go against the tide of ‘how things are done around here,’ you become an asset that is difficult or impossible to replace. You become an owner…not only of your organization’s success but also of your own career path.

7 Responses

  1. Nicely said! And you’re right, it’s long overdue.

    As a consultant, I’m on my toes every day to produce results and if I don’t, I won’t get paid. Period. When I suggest to bosses that pay and benefits should be tied to results, they get a resigned look in their eye and say, “That’ll never happen!”

    In 10 years I’ve noticed the challenge is not getting line staff to think differently but getting that middle layer of the organization to stop feeling entitled and playing politics, and really make something happen. Start from the top!



  2. Thanks for commenting, Vickie. It is so interesting that many/most businesses find it difficult to focus on results. Politics ad entitlement are so entrenched and wasteful. I sometimes wonder if American business will wake up in time to use the talent they already have internally and make it in this economy.

  3. Well stated Janine! I see this as a high risk/high reward proposition for most who embrace it given the entrenched management culture of ‘how things are done around here’. For many people it’s the belief that the devil they know is often far better than the devil they don’t. As long as businesses are providing retirement incentives, 401Ks and healthcare benefits (cheaper and better plans than you can get on your own) people are going to weigh that against the idea of rocking the boat to push out and do things differently.

    I’m looking forward to meeting these professionals and managers who are taking ownership of their careers! They and their companies will also potentially be my customers as they realize they have the power to be creative and make innovative changes focused on results. Engaging and empowering their staff to collaborate in ‘owning’ the creation of best practices and processes to put them on a results driven path to the profitable cutting edge.

  4. Another great job in framing career in the context of the future for human capital — project based engagement.

  5. Thanks, Marie…it must be easier to embrace the way “things are done around here” when dreams and self-confidence have been driven into the ground and what you know about yourself is viewed through the lens of a job title. I’m thinking that most job titles and work expectations don’t include (let alone encourage) being courageous when something needs to be said, or being results-focused when political acumen rules.

  6. Sometimes there are filters put on by the company . They all don’t want or need conventional thinkers .These filters get rid of some who are just looking for a place to hang their hat.
    When I went to a place in Paris that wanted me to where a tie to enter I took off a sock and used it . The Doorman laughed so hard he waved me in … I hope there is always room for thinking out of the box.

  7. How resourceful, Barney…a great story! I think there will always be a place for innovative thinkers…now more than ever. Thanks for your comments.

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