About a year ago I met this young lady who was working in a South Seattle coffee shop. In all honesty, my first reaction to her wasn’t something I’m proud of. My morality first reacted to her tattoo and bright lipstick; this then engaged my emotions and caused me to draw back relationally. With an incomplete set of judgments, I automatically came to conclusions about her intellectual capacity as well. Like I mentioned, I’m not proud of my reactions.
As an American, I tend to subconsciously view myself and others through five “lenses” that our national culture values. Large parts of our national life and individual energy are spent comparing ourselves to others in hopes that we are “good enough”.
From early childhood we are taught that five “lenses” form the yardstick the world uses to determine who measures up and who doesn’t:
- Intellect: How much I know or they know. (Jim’s big trap)
- Morality: The rules that define my associations and determine what and who I’m open and closed to.
- Physical: How I react to the way I and others look.
- Emotional: The way I manage, control, judge, share, and accept the feelings I and others have.
- Relational: The way I and others interact around all of the above.
As I caught my moral and emotional “lenses” reacting to her physical appearance, my relational lens tried to push me away – creating distance from her. But below this clamor, a small deep voice urged me to draw closer. So in spite of my judgments, I sat with my coffee and observed her working.
I first noticed that she really enjoyed each person she served and that she seemed to naturally bless them. They in turn responded well to her. Her smile came naturally and she seemed to know how to appropriately interact with each unique person. She was efficient, too. She kept the line moving, never messed up a drink order and in some small way; she made each person feel special. Each time the action paused, she made sure there were adequate supplies and that the work and guest areas were clean and well organized.
Once I moved beyond my judgments to appreciating her, I read her tattoo which said, “Work harder”. I thought to myself, “Someone who would wear that must have an amazing story.”, so I waited for a slow down and stepped up to ask;” I noticed your tattoo and wondered if you own the place?” She responded with, “No I just work here but, someday I’d like to own one.” I complemented her on how gifted she was at her work, that she seemed to have a knack for the job and asked if her boss had ever commented on her qualities. She quietly responded with, “No.”
Here’s my point. When we see each other and our employees through our superficial “lenses” we can miss the unique way each is created and the opportunity that could be standing right in front of us – just like I initially did and her boss has continued to do.
The “lenses” that we see ourselves and others through form our Employee Lid™, Growth Lid™ and Value Creation Lid™. By seeing below the clamor, through the lens of “what’s her gift”, I became open to being surprised.
In my experience, one difference between a company just surviving and another consistently growing can be found just beyond our judgments – about employees, vendors, customers, bosses and ourselves. How each of us responds to each other is everything. To go farther, faster – go slower!
I’d love to know your thoughts. Jim@peer-place.com