When I'm having a service challenge with someone (as a customer) and I start getting annoyed, I'll sometimes ask them that question (as kindly as possible).
See ... there's a story for every interaction and every experience we have.
Our customers (patients, students, donors, supporters) will occasionally share that story with friends. Our colleagues will occasionally share that story with other colleagues. And our managers will occasionally share that story with other managers (and job references).
And sometimes that story will be told over the dinner table at home (something important to remember for those who lead people...spouses, significant others, and family can be important influences to how engaged and caring someone is at work ... and whether they stay or look for something better).
Unfortunately, the story itself ... it's really never completely in our control. Perception, past experiences, added perceptions, and thoughts from others can all impact the story.
But we can influence the story. We can better the chances of making it a story we want told ... a good story (the kind I share from the stage).
We just need to wake up more often ( Smile & Move) and remember that our work is always about making good things happen for other people. It's not about protecting policies or rules or ourselves when it's showtime (worktime). It's about helping everyone enjoy more of their day.
At the 32nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors (2009), Jon Stewart described Bruce Springsteen with..
"Whenever I see Bruce Springsteen do anything, he empties the tank ... every time. And the beautiful thing about this man is he empties that tank for his family, he empties that tank for his art, he empties that tank for his audience, and he empties it for his country. And we, on the receiving end of that beautiful gift are ourselves rejuvenated, if not redeemed."
That "empties the tank ... every time" is what gets me.
Most of us don't get the opportunity to empty the tank in such a high-profile way as Springsteen, but we can work to empty the tank and be rock stars in our own worlds ... a much better story.