It was a fancy dinner that reminded me of a story about my entitled 20-something youth … a time when I thought the world was here to serve me.
It was the beautifully aligned glasses across the open table that gave me the flashback.
I must have been about 24. I was selling insurance. To supplement my income, I waited tables in a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C. (Georgetown). On this particular shift, I was standing around doing nothing and the manager (a young person, as well) came to me and said…
“If you don’t have anything else to do right now, in your section, make sure all the place settings are nicely aligned. I want you to imagine a string held over your row of tables, above the glasses. Those glasses should be perfectly aligned. Understand?”
It’s possible she added a please or two, but I’m confident I didn’t hear it.
I remember thinking (and saying with my eyes, I’m sure), “You’re a fanatic.” I remember being angry and thinking her request was just busywork.
And now, like so many things with an added quarter-century of experience, if I were to see a video of my response, I know I’d be embarrassed.
She was serious about her work. And now, she’s the reason I like going to particular restaurants, shopping at particular stores, and working with particular people and companies.
Attention to detail. Care. To a fanatical level.
I know it’s a long shot, but if you’re reading this and you think you’re the “fanatic” I’m writing about (you were a manager at J. Paul’s in the early 90s … I think your name was Nina Wolfe), please call or email me. I’d love to send you an apology gift. Really.
If you’re a leader (with a title or not), what are you doing on a regular basis (an all-the-time thing rather than a sometimes thing) to inspire that deeper care and attention that we all want (inspire … not control)? Call or email anytime. I’d love to hear what’s working for you.
Reading and discussing one or two of my booklets (below) might also be helpful to you. Sometimes people are more open to the “let’s get fanatical” message when it comes from someone not so close to the situation.