I’m lying awake in that transition, a sleepless funk I often go through when traveling from North America to Europe. When I’m lying wide awake in the middle of the night my routine is to listen to the BBC. Tonight they’ve interviewed a 70 year old waitress who serves patrons in a long standing Preston, UK eating establishment. In another unrelated segment they interviewed a 27 year old single mom who works in one of Santiago’s “Cafe with Legs.” There is incredible distance between these women, geographically, culturally and in almost every way.
Yet there in an incredible common bond between these two women through the self respect each has in serving others. In both cases they run into the occasional disrespectful customer but they have control over how they choose to be what Seth Godin describes in his book Linchpin. as “artists.” They are in control of excellence. They choose to be great at what they do. They listen and laugh with their customers. They bring personal connection through the medium of a cup of coffee. Rather than feeling victimized by working in the “secondary labor market”, they choose to make their contributions great. They are valued and valuable.
Many CEOs and other execs would benefit from waiting on a few tables. We’re in the service business and can learn a lot from these two women. Greatness is in the behavior NOT the position or title. Respect is to be given. Listening is a responsibility.