Why You Should Be Best Friends With Your Custodian

Posted on: Oct 28, 2014

Categories: Leadership

Before I found my voice (literally), I was a mime for 25 years. I had a wonderful career performing in thousands of different venues, from cruise ships to schools to amusement parks to weddings to bar mitzvahs to graduation parties—I even performed at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas!

After moving to Ohio, I joined an organization called the Muse Machine, which sent artists such as myself to perform in schools in the region. After doing over a thousand appearances, I was asked to lead teacher in-service days.  My first speaking appearances were in schools, and I spent a lot of time perfecting my craft in school auditoriums and cafeterias.

But one thing I took away from working in thousands of venues across the United States was who the important people really were. While the principle may have had the authority and the budget to book my show and the secretary may run and organize everything in the school, the day I arrived for my program, the only person who really mattered to me was the custodian.

Who has the key to every door in the school? The custodian. Who will set up the chairs and stage exactly like I’d want them to be? The custodian. Who knows how to open and close the curtains, and how to set up the light board? The custodian. Who knows where all the spare chairs or extension cords are kept? The custodian.

That’s why to this day, as soon as I arrive at my venue, I look for the custodian, sound technician, stage manager, or on-site event coordinator. I shake their hand and thank them for all of their hard work in getting the room ready for my appearance, and often give them a copy of my book or a set of juggling balls. I tell them that I know they work harder than anyone else there, and that I appreciate them preparing for my performance, even though I know it added a couple of hours of work into their day.

So when the principal or manager says, “Sorry, we don’t have a microphone stand,” I just look to my friend the custodian who smiles and walks away, only to appear moments later with a microphone stand in hand.

Every organization has one–the one person who knows where everything is, who can solve all the logistical problems, and who shows up earlier and leaves later than anyone else. If that person is validated, appreciated, and recognized as one of the key components to your organization’s success, you’d be amazed what doors can be opened for you—literally!

Today, go take two minutes and thank them, whoever they are in your organization.

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