When Words Can Build a Worker’s Self Esteem

Michelle Benjamin – CEO of Benjamin Enterprises


In my first post, I spoke to my firm belief that words have meaning, specifically, the words in the company’s motto being a true reflection of the philosophy that has guided me.

“Hands That Work. Minds That Think.” is equally derived from the importance of building self esteem among workers, empowering them to think about what they are doing with their hands, and confidently express their thoughts about making positive changes to their managers.

In the early days of my company, I had the privilege of meeting a man who gave me the personal insight to really understand the connection. Yves was a janitorial worker assigned to clean, each day, the rooms in a hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU). He was a Haitian immigrant. Most people with whom he came in contact saw him as an unskilled worker at the bottom of the labor pool.

We had over the course of a few months the opportunity to talk at length, and there came a moment in the course of conversation where I experienced the “Aha!” insight that became the reality on which my company purpose was established.

When I asked this man to describe what he did in the course of cleaning an ICU room, he methodically, and with care, detailed forty two discrete actions that were essential to the heightened requirements of the critical care nature of the ICU room. He spoke about chemical “dwell time” needed to effectively sanitize an area. He explained how he organized the sequence of actions to accomplish the overall task of cleaning a room efficiently so that the larger assignment – sanitizing all the rooms in the ICU – could be completed each day.

Here, then, in this seemingly unskilled laborer, was the essence of a mind that thought through his actions so that his hands could be more effective. He was managing his tasks in a thoughtful way, consistent with his goal to deliver a high quality essential service each day.

Immediately, I recognized that this seemingly unskilled worker was in fact a professional, and I told him that his well thought through application of expertise helped patients in the healing process. He was a contributor to their recovery. The smile he gave in response lit up the room. His value as a thinker as well as a doer was being acknowledged. His self esteem was bolstered.

From this “Aha!” moment, my company’s purpose was defined; simply put my company creates opportunities for people to achieve their full potential through the experience of work with mentorship.

I came away from this experience deeply moved and ever more committed to providing my workers with the opportunity for the continuous development of their talent to unlock their potential to achieve excellence.