Leaders – How Clean is Your Window?

It was raining very heavily and the little restaurant where I was having dinner was very crowded. All the tables were occupied and some hungry customers were waiting for their turn. Some children were crying as they had to wait and the harassed waiters were hurrying to serve the diners.

Amidst all this confusion there was one waiter called Chandran who was serving everyone with a smile. His communication skills were fairly advanced. He was serving each customer according to their need, carefully listening to each order, checking his understanding and then executing the order. But Chandran’s smile was short lived as very soon there was a huge commotion at one end of the restaurant. One angry diner had flung his plate across the room and was screaming at him.

All eyes turned to that part of the room. It was surprising to see that Chandran was involved in this situation. As a regular diner I had always admired Chandran for his skill at customer service. Always polite and quick to serve the customers, he was indeed very popular with everyone. In fact he had also very recently received the “Employee of the Month” award from his employers. So what was going wrong?

The customer was actually accusing Chandran of physically assaulting his little son. The manager rushed to the spot and, after pacifying the customer, got to the bottom of the issue. Most of the people around also had seen Chandran drag the little boy across the room but what was Chandran’s version?

Then we came to the final truth. Unnoticed by the parents the little boy was playing with a fan that was kept nearby. As Chandran was passing by he noticed that the child was pushing his fingers dangerously close to the fan. Chandran quickly dragged him away from danger. A moment’s delay would have had dire consequences. Instead of thanking him these parents were shouting at him!

The attitude displayed in this situation reminded me of something that I had recently read:

“And so it is with life. What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look.” – Author Unknown

When we look through a dirty window the world outside looks dirty and when we clean the window and look through it, the world outside is a beautiful world. The window we look through is really the perception we have of people and situations.

If only those parents could clean their window and look at the situation. Instead of shouting at him they would be thanking him for saving their little boy!

“We see the world not as is but as we are. By improving, refining, and defining who we are, we see the world from the highest, most enlightened perspective”.

– Robin Sharma in Leadership Wisdom

Leadership… Pointing the Way

Sandra stood up one more time and pat came the reply… this time louder than before, she was correct as always.  “Oh Sandra… Oh Sandra, not again”, I groaned to myself. The trainer in me could not allow this to happen.

Sandra was a participant in a customer service training session. She was a very intelligent and extremely confident lady.  She handled even the most complicated questions with ease. Her enthusiasm was initially infectious; however, as the day progressed it became burdensome to the others. As the facilitator, I set some firm limits but she paid no heed to them.

As the leader of her team was she displaying good leadership traits?

“The real leader has no need to lead – he is content to point the way.” – Henry Miller

Half way through the session I was forced to give her some very direct and open feedback. She was not allowing any one to learn and in the process not learning herself. Her behavior was disrupting the session and demoralizing the others.

I also spent time with her alone and sensitized the need for her to change her attitude and behavior. Although she broke down once, she took all the feedback very bravely.

“Truly great leaders spend as much time collecting and acting upon feedback as they do providing it.” – Alexander Lucia.

She started allowing others to speak and gradually started giving more understanding and gaining respect. By personal example she proved her love for her team by acting upon the feedback. She implemented the suggestions given to her as feedback

And so was born a Leader who understood Leadership as ‘Pointing the Way’ – a key concept in Leadership Training.

Here are some more blogs that address various soft skills topics:

  1. Is Your Feedback Constructive?
  2. 3 Tips To Preparing For A Good Presentation
  3. The Paradigm of Indian Leadership