|8 AM. The Lyft driver stops a few houses away. There is momentary confusion as I wave him up to my house. He jumps out and grabs my bag with apology. I hop in the backseat and immediately have that moment of awkwardness: where are you expected to sit in a Lyft when you are on your own?
As we pull away, I ask him, “Where do most people sit? Up front or in the back?” He says it varies and some people sit up front, some prefer to sit in the back. We are already moving, so I stay put. He says that he appreciates that I brought it up.
All this leads to a conversation about hospitality, manners, and behavior. I never intended to talk to this guy, really. It seemed like the perfect 20-minute airport ride to spend texting or checking email.
He tells me that many people are so wrapped up in their phones, friends, or whatever, that they act like he isn’t there. Or, how a guy recently ripped out his phone cord to plug his own device in without asking. Needless to say, he said he felt annoyed and disregarded.
He is an immigrant, Slavic, by way of Syria. We were both chefs in the past and reminisce about the excitement, creativity, and toil of the job. We talk about pay disparity in restaurants, working with the most felons we have ever known, and how women and immigrants are often exploited or treated like the great unseen.
And yet, we fondly recall how a busy night on a restaurant line with a great team is like art, a ballet, both beautiful and seamless.
We are both practiced in the art of hospitality not just by career choices, but also through exposure to other cultures. His learned in Syria, while mine came from working for a member of the Egyptian Olympic Basketball team (yes, there actually is one). We were expected to welcome anyone who crossed the threshold with generosity and care. It didn’t matter whether they were the UPS driver or the CIO of California. It’s a moral, humanistic, dignified practice with a knock-on effect: you feel good about doing it and more connected to others.
These are simple examples of doing well by others and not so well. As human beings, we intuitively know what we should do for others. Unfortunately, we don’t always do it. In the book, “Leadership and Self-Deception”, it is described as a form of self- betrayal.
At workplaces, we hear about self-deception all the time. People tell us they are moving so fast, they don’t have time to think, let alone care. As one employee put it, “What used to make this a great place to work, now just makes it a grind.”
We all know what to do and may even want to do things for others. What would change if we practiced the art of letting someone “cut in” in traffic, apologizing for a mistake, or sharing a useful piece of information with a colleague?
We increasingly stay “in the box,” focused on our own goals or advancement with little awareness or concern about the impact on others. Once we betray ourselves, we create all types of justifications for our lack of right action. We make excuses about other people and their performance. We inflate our own virtue, and blame others for making us feel and act the way we do.
“How you do anything is how you do everything.” It’s how small things become big things: big awesome things or big crappy things.
We recently rolled out a series of trials with some of our client teams on small, awesome things. We did this by discovering and delivering simple tools that allow people to practice meaningful conversation, inclusion, and taking right action vs. being in the box. Those who have tried it on are inspired, getting better results, and seeing a ripple effect beyond just work.
Think about your workplace:
- What are some areas of you work where small changes in tone, conversation, and behavior would matter?
- What would be different if we thought more about others and not just ourselves or the deliverable?
- What are ways in which you have been overlooked, disregarded or felt excluded? How might you have acted this way toward others?
- What are ways you hope to make work more welcoming for everyone?
Drop me a line if you want to chat about this! In the meantime, thank you Plamen, the Lyft driver I didn’t want to talk to, for the conversation, hospitality, and for reinforcing the importance of small things.
At Positive Disruption we specialize in working with companies who know that change done well creates better results, awesome levels of engagement, and a workplace that is THE BEST place to be!