As the escalator brought me down from ticketing in the Northern airport I was in this week, I saw the kind of scene that brings out audible groans from travelers. It becomes kind of comical after a while.
As soon as passengers were low enough on the escalator to see the crowds, you’d hear some version of, “Oh…%#*@.”
The lines were not only long, they were slow. I estimated a minimum of 300 people were in line. The customer service virtuosos at TSA had 4 lanes but only 2 body scanners operating. And everyone was apparently being treated to an extra dose of radiation that day – free of charge!
People were vocally worrying about missing flights. That didn’t seem to faze the “blue shirts” much at all. It’s one thing to make people wait in long lines. It’s another to then move around like you’ve just eaten Thanksgiving lunch and need a nap.
After 20 minutes, I was close enough to the front of the line to see and hear Pam. She was an older woman checking our tickets and ID’s. The line was so backed up that she could only do about one per minute.
But as opposed to her counterparts, she was having brief conversations with folks.
When it was my turn, she smiled while reading my driver’s license and said, “Is it warm down there in Texas yet? I visited Houston once in April, and it was beautiful.” The only topic I wanted to talk about as I walked up there was how awful they make the flying experience.
But I soon found myself chuckling with this nice lady and talking about the challenges of plants blossoming too early in the year.
You can actually do quite a bit of small talk in 60 seconds. When I could finally advance, she wished me a safe trip home. I told her “Thanks, you have a great day, too.”
Huh? How’d that happen?
Sure, the TSA folks I encountered after that did their best to bring my blood pressure back up, but I paid attention to Pam for as long as I could. She was dealing with the same line of aggravated customers each of her peers were.
But her work environment and her customers’ experiences were totally different from theirs, because she made it so.
People tend to behave and speak in the manner in which they are treated. Treat people indifferently or rudely, and they’ll reciprocate. Show a little respect and empathy, and you’ll usually have it returned.
What environment are you creating today?
While I prepared to give a presentation recently, an old friend and I reminisced about when we got into banking. We laughed about “where our heads were” at that time.
The group I was getting ready to speak to skewed pretty young, and many were in their first banking jobs.
We joked about all our ongoing quests to find ways to keep these folks motivated. Old guys like us (mid-40’s) usually have much different motivators than younger men and women whom are, frankly, not yet committed to being a “banker.”
Of course, I know 20-year-on-the-job senior bank managers who are still not sure this is what they want to do when they grow up.
One of the things I frequently observe is that younger employees often have a hard time relating to their more senior peers and management. Some likely believe that those “old folks” always wanted to do whatever it is they do now.
Or, they believe that the folks who have climbed the company ladder surely must have always been “top performers.” The experienced folks seem to be pretty comfortable in their own skin and are sure of themselves and their actions. When you’re young, it’s tough to relate to them.
I shared with my buddy an exercise that I’ve seen have an impact in the past. Have senior managers share with groups some of the hardest and/or worse jobs they’ve held.
And if they claim to have liked all of their past jobs (there’s always one or two super-optimists in the bunch) have them share their biggest or most embarrassing past goof-ups. That practice never fails to get other folks laughing and connecting.
You mean the woman who now manages an entire region used to bus tables? Our senior lender used to deliver pizzas? The CFO initially had trouble keeping a teller drawer balanced?
When folks (regardless of age) hear these stories, they almost always relate better to the storytellers.
And it’s not that these folks are sitting there, thinking, “Gee, one day I want to be just like them.” But it reminds people that where you came from and the failures you have had in the past are simply your prep work for future success.
And the best way to reach whatever goal you have for the future is to take care of the responsibilities in front of you today.