Have you heard about the customer service technique of pretending that every customer you serve is your grandmother? It’s a technique built upon the assumption that you like your grandmother, and it teaches employees to treat customers as human beings with needs rather than walking annoyances that keep interrupting their lives.
I would like to suggest that we implement the same approach with internal colleagues. I never cease to be amazed at how kind people can be to individuals outside the organization but so cruel to their fellow employees.
I remember one job I had in my twenties. Our training group was being introduce to our new manager who was a new brainiac from Chicago. He started out by asking me to make a pot of coffee before even introducing himself. I proceeded to go to my office feeling humiliated and a little murderous. He didn’t get his coffee.
On his first day, he gathered all of his minions in a room to inform us, in case we didn’t see the resumes stacked on his desk, of how highly educated and brilliant he was. The fact that he stood and promoted himself with his zipper down and shirt-tail sticking out was the only thing that saved us from walking out the door en masse. The humor was totally worth the pain.
Six months later, the brilliant savior was escorted out by Human Resources. He might have been brilliant, but he had no people skills. He should have unzipped our hearts rather than his pants.
When leading others, remember the following:
People are not widgets. They have families, and dreams, and hopes, and wounds. You don’t have to coddle them, but you do have to acknowledge the heart. If you don’t, you might find yourself being escorted out the door without coffee and with your zipper down.