dirty hands

Recently, I took my car in to get new brakes and rotors. After learning it would take two hours, I grabbed my computer and walked to a local coffee shop to work.

Six hours later, as they were putting the last tire back on my car, a lug nut broke, and they had to call the parts shop down the street. Realizing it was going to be at least a couple more hours, the manager encouraged me to get a rental car from a block away.

When I came back the next day to get my car, George, another shop manager who I’ve had several good experiences with was there and so I asked him what happened the day before.

“The guys don’t always respond well to the other manager. They had bitten off more than they could chew and the guys weren’t pushing hard to catch up,” George said.

“Why is that?” I asked, remembering the other managers exasperated look from the day before.

“When I ask them for a favor, they bend over backwards to help me. They don’t for him,” George said.


Looking me in the eyes, and in a hushed tone, he said, “I get my hands dirty with them.”

Quiet, as I took in the ridiculous simplicity of his statement, George continued, “Things aren’t like they used to be when I was growing up. The older guys used to teach and mentor us younger ones. That just doesn’t happen in this industry anymore.”

Curious, I asked, “How old are you, George?”


Yes, thirty. Two. He was talking about “how things used to be” when he was growing up, and he’s thirty-two.

Fortunately, it’s never too late to resurrect a practice that works. If the folks on your team aren’t performing up to snuff, perhaps it’s the perfect time to get your hands dirty with them.

While it’s easy to visualize what a mechanic might do to “get his hands dirty,” it may not seem as obvious in other professions. Here are a few key challenges that are excellent cues for where you may need to get your hands dirty with a team member:

  • They keep turning in subpar work.
  • You find yourself complaining about their performance.
  • They don’t jump on opportunities.
  • They consistently miss deadlines.
  • They’re working a ridiculous amount of hours trying to keep up.
  • You’re working a ridiculous amount of hours doing their job, and yours.
  • They’re complaining about their workload.

Very few people are good at asking for the help they need, and nearly everyone wants to do good work. While it’s tempting to get irritated with people who don’t ask for the help they need, it’s far more kind to ask questions, generously observe, and look for ways to help them improve.

I don’t know about you, but I’d certainly work harder for someone who helps me improve, than a boss who wastes time complaining.

Here’s to Your Greatness,  

Misti Burmeister

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