Like most families, we went on vacation and drove 500 miles to look for a place that served home-cooked meals. We stopped to get our fix of Southern cooking. Our waiter was service-industry-challenged. He couldn’t get anything right. I thought, “If he gets minimum wage, he’s overpaid.” The experts say that an average person only uses 10 percent of his brain. In this case, the kid was way below average. His IQ was so low I thought he would stumble on it just walking out to help us. He needed some industrial strength counseling on customer service.
The worse the service was, the more irritated I became. When I’m irritated, I use humor to make sure people understand I’m irritated. When the waiter came by, I said, “You’ve been gone so long, I expected a much older guy to come back.” My wife and daughters were getting irritated with me because they knew I was irritated with him. So they kicked me under the table and said, “Act like a Christian.” I told them that I was on vacation, but it didn’t seem to make any difference to them.
As the meal progressed, I noticed something different in the way my family interacted with the waiter and the way I interacted with him. They didn’t look at his performance; they looked at him as a person. They thought this guy was wonderful. They asked him questions and found out he was married and that he and his wife were expecting a baby. They found out that this was his first job. I could’ve told them that much. They looked at his person instead of his performance.
When we got ready to leave, my family told me to leave him a big tip. They have always been very generous with my money. So I gave a $10 tip on a $25 meal, and they wrote on the ticket, “God loves you, and so do we.” Now, would I have done that on my own? No. But I discovered something by watching what took place. When they focused on him as a person, his performance improved. And I’ve noticed in life that when you focus on a person’s strengths, his weaknesses start to improve.
That day with my family reminds me of a story about a man who was promoted to manager of a logging camp. He asked the former boss if he had the power to hire and fire. The former boss said, “You want to fire Tony, don’t you?” The man said, “Yes, I do.” Then the former boss said, “Now that you are in charge, you may fire Tony if you want, but I should tell you that he’s one of your best workers. His group has the best record of any other group. You can fire Tony, but you’ll fire one of the best.”
The next day, the new manager called a meeting, told everyone he had been promoted and he could hire and fire. After the meeting was over, Tony went to the new boss and said, “You’re going to fire me, aren’t you?” His boss said, “Well, I was going to, but your old boss said you’re wonderful. He said you are the best worker that I have, so I’m not going to fire you.” Tony wasn’t prepared for this response, and the boss wasn’t prepared for his reaction. Tony had a tear in his eye, and as he walked away, he mumbled, “Why didn’t he ever tell me that? Why didn’t he ever tell me?” Tony’s life was changed that day. He eventually became president of one of the largest logging companies in America, and it all started the day he found out what the boss thought about him.
I suspect Tony’s boss learned the same lesson I learned from my girls. Wonderful performance comes from people who believe that someone thinks they are wonderful. If you’re discouraged with your performance, remember the boss, God, thinks you’re wonderful.