I recently traveled with my daughter and friends to Washington, D.C. Every time I visit that city, I am overwhelmed with patriotism and pride. This trip was extra special because I watched history literally come to life in the eyes of my 11-year-old daughter. There were so many special moments on this trip, yet one individual we met has been in my thoughts at work this week.
The National Archives is a beautiful and formidable building that houses the three most important documents of our democracy: The Declaration of Independence; the Constitution; and the Bill of Rights. The Rotunda houses all three in an awe-inspiring and reverent fashion. The building is open to the public but only a certain number of guests are allowed into the Rotunda at a time to allow everyone to see the documents. The area is guarded as one would expect, yet we met a security guard that defied all expectations.
Officer Williams was the security personnel monitoring the number of visitors in the Rotunda on the day of our visit. Before letting us into the area, he quizzed us on history and talked to the children about the foundation of our government. As we entered, he pointed out fun facts about each document and the building. He made it feel like a game and our children hung on his every word. When we left the area, he offered the children advice on the other exhibits and instilled a sense of curiosity. We thanked him graciously and he replied with a big smile, “I love my job.”
Officer Williams was different than the other guards in the room. He did not stand in the corner observing and reminding guests not to touch; he engaged with the visitors enthusiastically and shared his knowledge with pride. He was a guard and a teacher. He had a passion for what he was protecting. Officer Williams realized that he was protecting more than priceless documents; in his own special way, he was protecting our democracy.
Home from vacation and back in the office, I keep thinking about Officer Williams and the value he provided to his employer. How do businesses recruit employees who are passionate? How do organizations motivate their workforce? How much more successful could a company be if all employees had the spirit of Officer Williams? How can business leaders encourage employees to strive for this level of engagement?
Answers to these questions vary among businesses and individuals and require an honest, in-depth review of your industry, culture, and employment practices. Many factors, such as hiring processes, communication styles, and HR policies, play a role in the establishment of an engaged culture. A passionate workforce can have a direct impact to a company’s bottom line.
Unfortunately, we were not able to take a photo with Officer Williams since there is no photography in the Rotunda, but I don’t need a photo to remember his contagious spirit, his passion for U.S. history, and his love for his country and his job. He made an impression on me and his positive attitude will serve as an inspiration in the exploration of passion.