Walking into the airport I heard the familiar cry “Shoe shine, shine em’ up, only $4 bucks. Shoe shine, shine em’ up”  Often I’m too cheap to consider such an offer, especially since I can do this myself.  Well, I’ve said that for far too long and have not done it myself.  Glancing at my shoes and the hard winter they just endured I looked at the smiling, humming man and nodded.

“Step right up sir.”  Meet Randy Mills 42.  Shoe shine man and proud of it.  You can find Randy bouncing back and forth at Newark Airport between terminals B and C.  This morning at 5:30 I found him in terminal B near gate 40.  Randy continued humming as he resuscitated my lifeless shoes.

“Are you here every day?” I asked.

“Well I get here early because the morning guy usually gets in late so I try to nab the red eyes and early flights out.  Since he shows up late, I can get in a few extra hours.  You see my normal shift is in the afternoon.”  He continued humming.

I smiled at the thought of this guy getting up early to work a few extra hours in what he felt were primetime.

“I’ll get in a few hours and then take my fiancé to the doctors, she is expecting.  Two months.”

“Now I understand why you are working so hard, another mouth to feed,” I joked.

“No sir.  I’m the singing shoe shine guy” He said with a smile.  “I love doing this.  I’ve worked hard all my life.  As soon as I was 16 I got a job and haven’t stopped.  I often worked two jobs.  My dad was a hard worker and so am I.”

When you hire people like Randy you know one thing is for sure, that you are not going to have to teach Randy how to work, it’s in his blood and he enjoys it.   As long as his talents and skill sets fit, he will give you a hard, long day with a smile because that is what he does, it’s who he is.

During the interviewing process it’s essential that you evaluate a person’s work ethic because it’s not something you can teach.  No matter how talented a manager you may be, you are not able to teach what life and Randy’s father have taught him.   “Hold on Garrett, you just said it couldn’t be taught and now you just said Randy’s father taught him worth ethic.  What gives?”

Yes Randy’s father taught him work ethic but it was through, modeling, experiences and discussions that Randy learned these valuable lessons.  The four qualities that make up WHIM are often caught not taught.  Unfortunately in most working environments we neither have the bandwidth nor tools to teach these qualities to those we work with.

I looked down at my ‘new’ shoes and thanked Randy for doing what he does and complimented him on his attitude.  “$4?” I asked.  Randy nodded.  I fumbled through my pockets and pulled out a bunch of ones.  I counted off five and asked him with a smile, “Will you take five?”

“It’s more than what I had.” He said with a smile.

I loved that answer!  “It’s more than what I had.”  It gives some evidence of a grateful heart.  If I had time I would have explored more of WHIM with Randy, but as I looked over his shoulder there was another man waiting to be blessed by Randy and his work ethic.

Look for work ethic and hire it.  It’s one of the four qualities that you must hire because you can’t teach.

HiringGarrett Miller