I remember a life lesson our Grandpa (Elmo) Chapin loved to highlight. Always leave a place better than you found it.

Our Coworker, Steve Gardner, likes to put the same principle to practice when he refers to the concept that people shouldn’t know you were ever there.

Both of these concepts reflect excellence.

I have always thought my Grandpa’s philosophy left me with a feeling of accomplishment when I put it to practice. It makes me feel like I am helping at least two people out.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say I’m working on a project that is nearly complete. Everybody hustles around, trying to finish it on time and move on to the next project. As I walk into a room to tie up a loose end, I notice a couple of ceiling tiles aren’t completely back in place. I know it’s not my fault. Somebody else has left them looking less than excellent. I have two choices, leave them and let somebody else fix them, or fix them myself.

If I leave them, I have done nothing to advance the project. The following person who walks into the room will face the same issue, to fix it or leave them. The person who made the problem is probably unlikely to come back and fix the issue. If I fix them, it will only take a few seconds, and I will have taken a small step toward the project getting done on time. Understandably, I will have covered up the mistake of someone. But I will also have saved another person from needing to do what I easily could have fixed myself.

Elmo Chapin would fix the tiles because he wanted to be a person who made a difference in the lives of people around him.

The second concept of leaving the place so that others won’t have noticed you were even there is even easier to live out.

Let’s say I walk into a room intending to trim it out. I plan to make up all the boxes and put in all the devices. As I do my tasks, I will be cutting and stripping wires, and I will likely need to trim up or even file away some of the drywall in cases where the holes aren’t just suitable. As I do these tasks, I will make a little mess. I will end up with scrap wire, tiny pieces of the wire’s jacket get stripped away, and some drywall dust will fall on the floor.

Again, I am left with a couple of options. I can let my garbage fall to the floor and leave it. Surely somebody else will come along and clean it up. Or I can pick up my garbage, throw it away, and when I leave the room, the only proof I was in the room was the high quality of work we get paid to do. I want people to notice my work for its productive parts and contribution toward progress. I don’t want them to notice that an electrician was there because they are the only ones working with wires.

Let’s face it when you walk into a room and see scraps on the floor; you don’t wonder who could have left that there. You think that trade is sloppy. They left some of their product behind for someone else to pick up.

Excellence is leaving your work as a craftsperson behind. Sloppiness is the opposite of excellence.

My example is 100% project site related, but we have a similar situation in our office environment. The work we turnover and the conditions we leave for others to work reflects our work.

I love walking on Willmar Electric projects and seeing almost no electrical trash. I assume it is because we try to hire and promote people who like to treat others how they want to be treated.