Putting a man on the moon

Erikjan Lantink
3 min readNov 10, 2023

During a visit to the NASA Space Center in 1962, President Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man, and said: “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy; what are you doing?” The janitor responded: “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President.”

As we all know, Kennedy’s dream was to put the first human being on the moon.

This janitor was helping the president.

This person was evident in how his, by many considered basic, job helped the dream of the president of the United States.

He knew that any excessive piece of dust could potentially harm the success of this space trip.

Dust is dangerous.

And this guy knew it.

It’s a lovely old story, but it’s the perfect example of increasing engagement when everyone is clear about the company’s purpose and how they contribute to it.

Most people want a purpose and meaning in their work.

Of course, there are many jobs people choose primarily for the money. But even then, you can inspire people to excel when you make it clear to them how important their role is

People in accounting departments can help simplify accounting procedures so that people in customer-facing roles need to worry less about all the non-revenue-producing paperwork.

When you serve your internal customers well, they will, in turn, serve your revenue-producing customers well.

In the end, it’s the customers who pay the mortgage on your house. Nobody else.

It’s the role of leaders to explain this relationship to anyone in the organization.

To serve and inspire those who, in turn, serve others.

In a business with many people in customer-facing roles, you should create a culture where employees are considered more important than customers.

Those customers pay your mortgage, yes, that’s fair. And your frontline people ensure that those customers show up in the first place.

As leaders, you create the culture you would like to see.

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Erikjan Lantink

Business & Leadership coach. Interim Leader. Writer. Speaker. Former Retail Executive (general management; operations; HR)