Friends and family got a little loud and rowdy while watching an NFL playoff game recently. As we collectively roared or sighed or high-fived as the game progressed, I had to chuckle at how most of us become performance coaches and strategy geniuses from afar.
With the aid of high definition TV, 3 camera angles, and slow-motion replay, we could read defensive back coverage better than the millionaires playing on our screens.
After loudly proclaiming that our quarterback was missing wide-open receivers, I paused and added, “Of course, he has guys trying to rip his head off, and I’m sitting on a sofa, eating chips and salsa.”
As the game wore on, we revisited that joke a few times. When someone would criticize the performance he saw on the screen, someone else would follow with something like, “Of course, you get winded walking to the fridge for a beer.”
I sat there amused at the heightened level of awareness my merry crew of critics had developed. Sure, we felt obliged to complain about and critique our team’s performance. But we at least acknowledged we weren’t walking in their shoes.
Granted, few of us are engaged in anything as fast-paced or high-pressured as an NFL game. Nor do we manage folks who have 70,000 people offering instant, loud critiques of their job performance.
But it is fair to remind ourselves that the more removed we are from whatever playing fields our own teams perform on, the easier it is to lose perspective on many of the challenges they face.
And that has more to do than simply being empathetic. When we begin to forget the “realities” of the jobs, we can have unrealistic expectations and set everyone up for disappointment.
That doesn’t mean we simply accept any excuse given when things go wrong. It means that we do our best to make sure we are tuned-in to the “realities on the ground,” so that our expectations are practical and possible, and folks can rightly be held highly accountable for meeting them.
When was the last time you (literally or figuratively) walked in your teams’ shoes or had a frank discussion about the reasonable (and unreasonable) challenges they currently face?
Armchair quarterbacks seldom accomplish much. Don’t unintentionally become one.
Over the years, I’ve used a small grocery store not very far from my home as an example of why a business’s facilities aren’t as important as its moving parts, i.e. its employees. The creatively named “Food Town” has always impressed me with how it keeps an older facility (that another store gave up on) looking fresh.
And while it might lose a dollar-for-dollar pricing competition with the mega-retailers, its focus on stocking essentials and commitment to customer service generates loyalty.
And with that said, I have to admit that we have begun making fewer and fewer trips to Food Town. A mega-retailer opened one of their flagship stores not much farther from our home in another direction. I kid with my wife that I find that store almost inspirational.
From the cavernous produce department to the prepared foods area to the sushi bar to the “cheeses of the world section,” I walk around that place thinking, “God Bless America.”
Truth be told, there is little reason for my family to shop anywhere else these days. But an experience at Food Town this week reminded me of why they continue to get a fair share of my business.
When I walked out of the store late one evening, I noticed two guys in dark jackets and wool caps leaning on the wall. They may not have had ill-intent, but they had definitely dressed for the part.
As I walked to the far end of the parking lot, I found myself contemplating what items I had in my grocery cart that could be used to inflict trauma if necessary. As I began to load groceries into the backseat of my truck, I heard someone jogging towards me.
Having reached my truck, I had something beneath the seat somewhat more suited for self-defense than a jar of peanut butter.
Just then, I heard a voice say, “Sir, sir! You lost a water bottle.” When he came into the light, I saw that a young bagboy had jogged across a dark parking lot to bring me a bottle of water that had fallen from my 24-pack as I walked from the register.
Doing the math in my head, I figured that bottle of water cost less than 15 cents. Heck, I may not have even noticed it missing. But the impression that personal gesture made bought that store more goodwill than any marketing campaign could have.
Small, sincere gestures often make the biggest impressions. Who will you impress today?