My friend Dave Munger is known to be a smart, gentle and reasonable guy. Recently, he was stupefied by an event at his local deli. When he asked for 0.6 lbs. of roast beef, he received a confused stare back from the attendant. After a bit of silence, Dave pointed to the digital scale and told her that she simply needed to put meat on it until it read 0.6. “But people usually just ask for a ½ lb. or a ¼ lb.,” she replied. My friend, by his own description, foolishly persisted. “A ½ lb. is 0.5, right? So just keep putting meat on until it reads 0.6.”
She dutifully loaded the meat on the scale, “That isn’t even going to get you one slice, sir.” He saw that the scale read 0.08 and thought, “These folks work with a decimal scale all day long and still have no understanding of how the decimal system actually works.”
At first glance, this appears to be just another story of shoddy customer service. But it is also a human story, if you put yourself in the shoes of the person behind the counter. Working with a digital scale you don’t understand results in one embarrassing customer interaction after another. Now that’s what I call soul-killing work.
As a supervisor, manager or leader, your job is to identify and draw out the good that is in most every person. Do you believe that people actually want to fail? Do you believe that they want to feel embarrassment in front of a customer? Or do you believe that they really want to do a good job and deliver value to their teammates and customers?
If you agree that most people have the desire to do well, then you’ll make the personal commitment to invest in them and in their success. It might be as easy as following up on Dave’s insight. In this case, a rudimentary exercise in the basics of the decimal system might just unlock more potential in someone than you could imagine. You might ensoul someone by improving their skills and lowering the number of hard customer interactions they face daily.