You may be one of those people who has spent a chunk of your time this holiday season doing some serious, big-time shopping. Whether it was face-to-face or online, at one point or another, you probably encountered some service failings. Maybe it was the inability of the clerk to answer your questions. Or the online database that kept you from purchasing that gift that would have been just perfect for your dear Aunt Margaret. Or the sales associate that was rude or unwilling to help. And, your initial and dominant response in those situations was probably one of aggravation and frustration with thoughts like “whatever happened to customer service in this country?” or “how do they expect to get any sales with experiences like this?” And I won’t even address what it was like trying to find parking at the mall or dealing with rude, pushy shoppers.
Here are a couple of suggestions for you when you encounter that situation…
First, be willing to rise above such “slights” and be bigger than the moment. This can be a very special time and it’s a shame to instead let someone else push your buttons and thus fail to enjoy all of the pleasures around you. Regardless of your religious beliefs, this time of year should be about bigger things than paybacks or complaints or upsets.
Second, put on your performance consultant’s hat. Move beyond the initial, gut reaction of why this behavior or experience happened. Treat this experience as if you were a performance consultant on assignment and you were supposed to deal with this specific task. How could you calculate the business impact of the performance issue? What contributes to this “sub-optimization”? How could you define the desired performance in a way so it was phrased as an accomplishment that could be objectively measured and replicated consistently? What environmental factors contribute to this performance gap? What information sources would you want to be able to find out the answers to these questions–who would you want to observe or interview? And think about your consulting skills too…when your spouse or roommate offers one of these venting stories (“You wouldn’t believe about this jerk I had to deal with trying to order that gift for my parents!”), ask the questions you’d need to ask a client that would move them from a frustrated insistence on training as a fix to instead a deeper understanding of what the problem is and how it persists. If you can’t get that kind of understanding with someone you love, how do you expect to do it with a client who is far less emotionally connected to you?
Third, go out and do something special for someone you love. Or someone you don’t know. Rather than getting stewed at the bad experience, bring some good into your little piece of the world. Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. Give back. In some small way, look for opportunities to help others or make the world a better place even if only in a modest fashion. Those things should be part of the holiday season and yet aren’t limited to just the holidays. And I’d like to think that being a performance consultant is consistent with all of it.
Peace and happy holidays to you.