Today is Monday.  As you look around the office, do you know whose birthday it is today?  Do you know where the cake is?  Or is it someone’s retirement? Did you find the department that had donuts this morning?

Now I’m not advocating unhealthy eating or running through the halls searching for the sounds of ‘Happy Birthday’ being sung… but I thought a good way to start my writing for Boredom to Boardroom was to extol the virtues of cake.  Well, not cake exactly. Knowing about the cake, that is it.


I spent 10 years in IT working for a hospital in the Midwest and one of my staff members was a mature employee nearing the end of a long career.  He had worked in a number of jobs and was finishing out his last few years to retirement as a computer technician at this hospital.  Now as a worker, I can’t say he was a good employee.  He fought directives, argued every decision, never felt he was wrong, was incessantly hardheaded with other staff and in general, not a joyful person to be around.  His performance reviews from managers within the organization were poor and his attitude was often a topic of discussion. In short, he wasn’t employee of the month.


But he had his merits.  He had a depth of technical knowledge about the systems that couldn’t be rivaled.  And perhaps just as important, he knew the names of nearly every one of the 900 employees at the hospital.  He knew visitors, physicians, even people in the community. While he had many things going against him, he was capable and truly wanted to help fix things.  Near the end of his career, I think he simply exhausted any remaining enthusiasm for the job…except…


He knew where the cake was.  Every day.  With almost 1000 employees, it was a good bet that someone was having a birthday party nearly every day of the year.  Even with workers spread across three shifts, there was bound to be at least one daily celebration and he knew them.  Every one of them.  He wouldn’t admit it, but I believe his Outlook calendar was chalked full of names each day of whose birthday it might be.  And, around 11:30 each morning he would begin his quest.  He would find an excuse to go to a remote site if he thought there would be someone having a party there.  He would cruise the halls of a department listening, looking, smelling for cake.  Over the few years I worked with him, I can’t remember him ever buying a lunch, but he always had cake or cookies.  When asked, he would freely tell you who had a birthday that day, but wouldn’t tell you before he headed to their department and was back with treats.


What I learned from him is that it pays to make connections.  You can be the most jaded employee, but people know you.  They appreciate that you came around and wished them a happy birthday or congratulations.  People remember that you came to their party and will possibly forgive some of your faults…


Now imagine you do this and you are already a good, or even excellent employee.  Zig Ziglar always said something like ‘you can get anything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want’.  People appreciate contact, they appreciate recognition and parties present opportunities to show you care.


Find the people, find the cake, network and who knows, those people might become valued friends, colleagues and references. At very least, you’ll still get cake!


Ken Montgomery is currently Global Network Operations Lead for an international manufacturing firm, looking to capitalize on his recent MBA in Management and make the jump to a senior level leadership position.  


Do you know where the cake is today? What else do you do to show you are ‘cake’ savvy? Let us know in the comments below.


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