I remember the first job I had when I left home: Lyon’s Restaurant, Santa Rosa, CA. 18 years old and launching my life. I walked into that coffee shop and applied for a server job. The manager looked me up and down and said that he couldn’t offer me a server job but… and he handed me a brown, polyester zippered jacket- the uniform of the busser. For the next year, I bussed tables for Lyon’s.

Every few months I would approach the manager with my request to become a server. And each time he told me that the next time an opening appeared, I would get it. But each time an opening did appear, he didn’t fill it with me. He filled it with another person. I really didn’t understand and I become very frustrated.

One day there was a commotion in the back kitchen. People were crowded together at the dishwashing station. I stood on tiptoe to see what was up. It seemed that the dishwasher hadn’t come to work and the dishes were piling high. The manager was flustered and upset.

In that moment, I remembered my first job ever. When I was 15 I worked in the scullery at church camp. Weekends and summers I was up to my knees and armpits in the foulest smelling garbage you can imagine. We washed dishes for three meals a day, 200-300 people at a time. But the truth? I loved that job and my coworkers. We played games. We sang songs. We figured out ways to make the work pass quickly and joyfully. There was a deep sense of collaboration in that scullery.

My reverie was broken in that Lyon’s kitchen as more and more people became impacted by our problem and against my better nature and in a fit of team spirit, I squeaked, “I know how to do that.” And so I became the dishwasher at Lyon’s restaurant.

It took me another six months until I again approached the manager about that gosh darned server job. I’ll never forget his response. He said, “But… you are such a great dishwasher.” And I’ll never forget my reaction. (Please don’t tell my kids.) I unzipped my brown, polyester zippered jacket, and I walked out of Lyon’s for good.

What is the difference between these two jobs? Core Values. For me: R-E-S-P-E-C-T with a great big dose of cooperation, fairness and honesty. When I look at everything I’ve done in my life since that time, I think about these values being core to everything I admire, want to be and have been proud to create.

Here is a definition of Core Values:

  • · Principles without which life would not be worth living.
  • · Those values that are universal and cut across all cultures.
  • · Values that make you most proud.

“Listening to and for core values impacts the power of your relationships.”

–Dave Logan, Tribal Leadership

Tell me one of your stories.

Ruth Schwartz

Ruth Schwartz is the author of "The Key to the Golden Handcuffs". She is a high performance business consultant and leadership coach. Connect with Ruth to participate in the conversation. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube .