As leaders that look to earn followership, we should find ways to show kindness to people going through tough periods. I had this opportunity last week as I went to exchange something at a big-box retailer. Craziness, long lines, and a lot of grumpy people. Sound familiar?
To complete my exchange, I had to go back to electronics and have a clerk help me. The item I needed was kept in a locked case and once found I would need a staff member to walk me back to customer service to complete the transaction.
As I arrived at the electronics department, I greeted the clerk enthusiastically with a smile and asked if he could help me get something out from behind the locked case. Clearly he wasn’t impressed with my greeting as he sighed and sauntered over a couple aisles with me to open it. As he did, I noticed he had braces on both knees. I began to feel a little guilty as I gently let him know some bad news; that he would need to accompany to customer service because I was performing an exchange.
After hearing this, he proceeded to give me a look like I was giving him a bowl of soggy corn flakes to eat as he said matter of fact, “ok . . . so let’s get it over with”. As we left the area, he mumbled a remark to a co-worker which seemed to indicate he would be back in a while but it was hard for me to hear.
So as we began our stroll up to the counter, I began to feel compelled to try and connect with this guy who seemed really beat up and tired. I was hoping to find something we could talk about since our walk to the front of the store was going to take a little time at the relaxed pace.
I began by asking him if he was looking forward to anything today? He quickly replied, “No”. Among other things, he told me he was living in “<this name of business> hell” and there was nothing good that was going to happen for a while.
I told him I was sorry about that and inquired if it was really that bad. He nodded his head up and down and I could tell he meant it. I then asked him how long this might last. He said until after Christmas.
“Then what?”, I asked.
He said, “…vacation… and they darn well better honor it.”
I told him I hoped they would and that things could get better for him soon. As we got up to the counter to complete my exchange, I realized that I was now far less concerned with my transaction and time in the store than I was about the well-being of this man. Surprisingly, as the guy was turning to leave he looked me in the eye, put his hand on my shoulder, and with the best smile he could conjure he thanked me for caring and began his slow return to his post.
As people who desire to grow in leadership our ability to connect and relate to people is critical. While we can’t (and shouldn’t) solve our team’s problems I think you would agree with me that we all need help and encouragement sometimes; especially when things aren’t going well. It doesn’t mean we don’t go through tough times, but it sure helps when there are others are out there rooting for us. This is the job of a leader that others will believe in.
What did I learn from this encounter?
- I learned it makes a difference to be kind
- I learned that listening and wanting to hear the answer can lighten a persons’ load
- I learned that standing with someone during a trial brings encouragement to them and can also affirm my own purpose
Be on the lookout for someone to show kindness to today