Guest AuthorNathan S V

Slice of Work: Driving a lesson about work

By | Nathan SV | Partner and Chief Talent Officer at Deloitte India

I started my career as a Management Trainee at a well-known MNC. It was at a factory manufacturing explosives for the mining industry. Our nearest government district head-quarters were some 60 miles away. I used to be sent to such places to ‘chase’ some matters in the labor department that needed follow ups. It was not a great job, and I used to be really upset that I was asked to do these ‘silly’ jobs. I could never understand why they needed someone from the finest B School. As you can see I had a heavy chip on my shoulder.

It was one such day that my manager called me and asked me to go to Giridih district to follow up on a file on labour. Although I protested, he would not hear of it and told me that a car would arrive at 7 AM the next day. It was a two-hour ride to the town. The following day I was getting ready to leave and seething at the thought of the ‘silly’ job that I was to do. I came down to the car that was to take me to town and noticed something strange.

The driver Ram Lal, was burnishing the black ‘Ambassador’ car to a fine shine. I walked up to him and asked him what he was up to. He said that he was polishing the car with wax. I told him that the dusty road would ruin the shine anyway, and that it was pointless. He said, “Sir, I love my car and I love my job. There is no work that is small and while the dust may yet settle back, if I did not polish the car it would look shabby and reflect poorly on me.” Ram Lal was no ordinary driver.

I got into the car and was about to slam the door when he rushed and gently closed the car with a click. “I did not want the door to be slammed shut,” he said. He started the car and shifted gears in a gentle way. He kept talking along the drive and about how work was divine and that he was fortunate to be working. I had reached Giridih in 90 minutes, and it was one of the best of rides despite the bad roads. I complimented him on that. He said that a car should be driven with the least bumpiness as if a child were in it.

I walked to the labour office. I met the officer with a smile on my face and confidently so as I had got all the simple jobs done with perfection. The work got done in a jiffy. We drove back and I was lost in an even more absorbing conversation with him. He taught me the value of respecting work and doing it with devotion. On Teachers Day, I thought of Ram Lal, my greatest teacher, to thank him and sincerely, so for driving the greatest lesson of work in me. And early in my career.

Republished with permission and originally published at Nathan SV’s LinkedIn

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