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Hidden Ordinary Work

I recently listened to the 2017 commencement speech given by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ to his son’s ninth grade graduating class from Cardigan Mountain School. In this speech, Justice Roberts said.

“When you get to your new school, walk up and introduce yourself to the person who is raking the leaves, shoveling the snow or emptying the trash. Learn their name and call them by their name during your time at the school.”

Justice Roberts recognizes the importance of hidden ordinary work and the importance of the unseen people who make our lives all the more enjoyable.

We all have hidden people in our organizations who we need to recognize and note their importance for our success.

Hidden Ordinary Work

Our world is full of hidden, ordinary work. Life would be dramatically different if we didn’t have men and women to pick up our trash, to get up before the sun to bake bread, and plant flowers in our parks. These unseen people, such as firefighters and police, help keep life moving along.

Just think how difficult it would be to educate our children without the stay-at-home parents who are available to volunteer for the countless needs of the school system, the janitors to clean the halls and classrooms, and the teachers with the patience to educate all our children.

I am amazed by how once you begin to see these people who perform hidden, ordinary work, you immediately recognize the tremendous value they bring to our world.


Our business world is no different. In the book Hidden Value, by O’Reilly and Pfeffer, the authors observe that the most visible characteristics that differentiate successful companies are their values-and the fact that these values come first, even before stock price.

Company values, as defined by the authors, is a belief about what is worthwhile or important. They’re principles or standards that are seen as important by all employees.

What is important about these companies is not that they have values, or that management preaches the companies values. It is the fact that all the employees believe in the values.

A company is not successful because of its values; it is successful because all the hidden, workers, those workers who are behind the scenes keeping the business running, believe in the company values. It is these hidden ordinary workers who takes those values out to the public.


We already know that hidden ordinary workers were the most important part of our business and our lives. Jesus taught that to us.

Philippines 2:7 says

but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

God, the second person of the Trinity, made himself into human likeness so He could reach us. He didn’t come as a powerful ruler, but became just another ordinary person, just like you, me, the grocery store clerk, and the truck driver. Isaiah 53:2 describes Jesus as humble in appearance and “nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

Jesus was obedient to God the Father and was sent here to serve us. It doesn’t get any more hidden and ordinary than that.

God’s plans revolve around the hidden ordinary workers. Titus 3:14 says.

And let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.

God works in the ordinary people, and we need to make sure we recognize them because they are the ones who will change the world.

As business leaders, we need to make sure our hidden ordinary workers share our values, and through shared values, they will make your business successful.