Thursday, November 16, 2006

Would you like a bagel instead?

Today's story is a story about choice, empowerment, personal accountability, leadership, service, and making the world a better place through the trickle down effect of our actions. And it started with Lynnette, a hero of the service industry who is making a local coffee shop better by the day.

I was in a rush this morning, and as such stopped off at a different coffee shop than the one I am used to. I ordered a breakfast sandwich on an English muffin, and after waiting about 3 minutes for my breakfast, I was told "we are just waiting for the buns... it will be about another 4 minutes." Now I had already paid, and I was in a rush. Just when I was about to tell her "forget it, give me a refund", or "why couldn't you tell me that before?" or "the service here sucks".... Lynnette pipes up with "would you like your breakfast on a bagel instead?".

My attitude turned from anger to inspired in 0.5 seconds. Lynnette had a choice to blame the system, her manager, her colleagues, whoever did not order enough buns, or prep enough materials for the day, etc etc etc. Lynnette owned the situation, offered options, and saved her company hundreds of dollars. Instead of writing off this popular chain of coffee shops, I was elevated by Lynnette's quick thinking, service-minded attitude, and teamwork.

Her colleagues owe her a huge thank you, as she took one for the team, and now she has inspired someone to "pay it forward" by thinking outside the box as to how we can service our customers, clients, co-workers, etc better rather than blame someone else when things go wrong. This story is not about a bagel, it is about personal accountability. In "QBQ: The Question Behind the Question", John Miller describes shifting from blame to accountability using examples just like the one I saw with Lynnette today. Don't ask "why didn't I get the promotion?" or say"that's not my department". Own the problem, own the solution, and take pride in doing just that.

Lynnette transcended her role today as a coffee shop cashier to become a business leader, leadership example, and case study for teaching employees how the small things add up. One minute of one day for Lynnette ended up making such an impact that now 1000s of people are reading her story worldwide. Imagine what impact she can make in a whole week!

If you are an employee anywhere, be more like Lynnette. If you are an employer, hire more Lynnette's, and educate them that their job is more than just about the paycheck. The intangible reward of giving and making a difference is far more enriching. For Lynnette, imagine how excited she will be to see her name in print because somebody noticed the 'little things'? The little things aren't little folks. They make a huge difference.

Next time you are faced with a problem, ask yourself how you can offer your child, spouse, employee. or customer a bagel instead, and wait to see the smile on their face!

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