It’s a common practice in most companies when someone new comes aboard that the boss walks the rookie around to meet the rest of the staff members.
Some of the new folks are very shy, and some are overly gracious, trying to immediately prove their worth, which I understand. One day, a rather inquisitive young man was introduced to me and instead of the typical banter of “Where did you go to school?” or “Where do you live?” he piped up with, “What is your primary function here?”
I had to pause. My primary function? That’s a really good question.
I thought a minute about the many hats I wear—the tasks in my day, the budgets I work with, the mix of people and titles I engage, the skills and talents of my co-workers in many projects. Finally, I said, “I cultivate loyalty.”
The more I thought about my witty answer, the happier I was with it.
It was true. Pretty much everything I do is rooted in securing loyalty—either from staff members in the place they work or to customers who depend on me to provide them with what they are seeking.
If a staff member chooses to confide in me, I provide a code of silence so the personal matters are safe. If a supervisor counts on me to be reliable, I work to portray that “You can count on me” attitude.
The Big Picture
Cultivating loyalty can be used in so many other situations.
What’s my “primary function” as a husband and father? I came up with “Exemplify condition-less reliability.” What’s involved in that? Well, certainly honoring the sanctity of the marriage vows, providing and supporting the children through good times and bad, and most importantly, setting an example by living a life that can be observed, respected, and copied. I think there are enough broad strokes there to cover all of the canvas. I’m from the old-fashioned school of Dad being the ultimate “provider,” and although that mindset might be antiquated, it works for my family. I have come to the conclusion that my daughters like me to be a little outdated and stuck in tradition. My sons welcome my stodgy but solidly reliable position on issues that always puts “family first.” And I think my wife appreciates my unwillingness to settle for less than what is deserved when it comes to her. I don’t miss anniversaries, birthdays, or important events. I make sure we get the best seats, the table near the fireplace, the meal that may have to be sent back until she is happy. All those things that make them say, “Oh, Dad!” But that’s why I’m here.
Understanding the primary function of others can help in other matters, too.
If a store clerk hurries me through the line without being cordial, I reason that his/her primary function is to take my money and allow for my purchase. Sure, I would like a more-friendly manner, but a clerk is a gatekeeper of sorts, merely performing an accounting function. I won’t waste my time trying to elicit a smile or friendliness. I got what I need and I paid for it. The clerk’s primary function has been served, and I’ll be on my way, thank you very much.
How about your job? Do you work to live or live to work? In one instance, the primary function is served when you realize that work is a means to an end. You work to get paid in order to give your family good things and live a contented life. But if you live to work, your primary function is inverted. You are simply there to serve the job and perform the tasks because that is what you like doing the most. That’s your choice, but it’s difficult to hug a good job goodbye or look for support and prayer during times of need when the center of your life is simply work. So it seems relatively easy to conclude that the selected primary function of anything should have a humanistic angle. Something has to “feed the beast” and that something is “satisfaction.”
A Cultural Shift
So if that human need for satisfaction is missing, the result of the effort can be a rather hollow victory. When Lee Iacocca was at Ford and tried to advance the idea of the minivan, the company resisted. Iacocca—who had spent his life in the car industry—became so passionate about the future needs of the country and the key force that the minivan would become, that he left Ford and went to Chrysler/Dodge to push his vision. The minivan was immediately a high priority at Chrysler/Dodge, and the vehicles sold so quickly that it took years for Ford to catch up in sales. Iacocca didn’t do the “I told you so” thing and celebrate Ford’s loss; rather, he focused on the country’s gain—an affordable vehicle that fit the needs of an average American family. Iacocca’s own family took great pride in how he stayed true to his primary function as an industry leader, American, family man, and grateful son of immigrants. The minivan, the precursor to all the SUVs we drive today, changed the American way of life. The front porch was replaced by the mobile people-hauler that let us visit anyone we wanted, not just the ones who walked by the house. That entire cultural shift was enabled by one man embracing and understanding his primary function at that moment in time. Iacocca went on to do other great things in his life, including fundraising for the rehabilitation of the Statue of Liberty. He became known for his altruistic ways and even commented in his own biography that he found throughout his life that when he strayed too far from what he knew best, he would stumble in his efforts. Staying with his primary function and purpose almost guaranteed his success. That sounds like a life experience we could all follow.
Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A from Baldwin Wallace University. He has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at email@example.com.