The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
- Mahatma Gandhi
I love to play chess. This game is frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. What I find interesting about this game are the functions of each piece. Each piece has different abilities. For example, the most vital and mobile piece, the Queen, can travel in any direction for any number of spaces you desire. If this piece is lost, your strength on the board and chances to win will take a massive hit.
On the other hand, the Pawn is one of the most limited pieces movement-wise in the game. Theoretically, losing one of these pieces doesn't impact your chances of winning nearly as significantly as losing the Queen. However, each Pawn can be used strategically to accomplish your offensive and defensive posturing. How well this is done either wins you the game or costs you a defeat.
Using your least significant, least powerful, and least impactful piece to win or lose a game is an idea that translates well into the world of relationships and, more specifically, business. The blog post's title, "Unreasonable Hospitality," is an idea that was created by a renowned New York restauranteur, Will Guidara. He took the idea of providing a service, as he says, "a transaction," and elevating it to new heights.
Within Will's podcast with leadership expert Simon Sinek, Will discusses how he took this idea and created an environment where people felt like they were being welcomed to a friend's house when they entered his establishment. When you visit your friends at their homes, they openly greet you by name and warmly welcome you. Your friend's home doesn't have a podium where a host welcomes them coldly, looking up their details within a computer system to check seating availability. Will noticed that the interactions needed to change from transactional to personal.
Taking this idea and applying it to your personal realm takes intentionality. Think about your daily interactions. How many of these interactions are with the same people day after day, month after month, and year after year? If you are like me, most of your interactions fall into this category.
Let's examine this topic through a leadership lens. How can we take this idea of providing unreasonable service to those around us? Not just individuals we enjoy the company of, that's easy. I'm speaking about those individuals who we actively work to avoid. When we see them coming down the hallway, we fake answer a phone call. Those people.
In Will's interview, he spoke about the idea of being able to provide this unreasonable hospitality to anyone and everyone utilizing one simple approach: Being Present. What does this look like?
Being present has multiple observable actions:
We take our attention away from electronics and refocus on the individual in front of us.
Turn off the TV, put your phone away, stop checking your email...give your undivided attention.
You are not multitasking! You give your solo attention to the individual you choose to interact with. I am physically here, giving my full attention.
We use our Non-Verbal and Verbal communication skills to show that we are listening, not just hearing the sounds.
Non-Verbal: Our body posture and positioning can speak louder than our words. Make sure you respond in a manner that opens up communication and encourages the other individual to continue talking.
I am not elsewhere mentally. I am tuned into the conversation, the moment, the experience. I am not trying to plan my next steps, mentally planning for some meeting later in the day.
Verbal: Using the mirroring technique created by Chris Voss, a retired FBI Hostage Negotiator, explained the power of these techniques in a presentation he gave for his Company Black Swan Group. Watch this video to better understand the approach.
In the Video: Power Negotiation Skills: Labels and Mirrors by Chriss Voss, we can see the power of this method. With labeling and mirroring, we can move someone from their conversational position to an open position that divulges the deepest part of who they are. All while keeping the conversations honest and genuine. I promise the other person will reflect on this tactic as the "best conversation they have had". Give it a shot!
Making a full circle back to the pieces on a chessboard. Remember that Pawn and Queen? Remember the power difference between the two? What would happen if we took the same care with the Pawns as we do with the Queens? What if we were intentional in the small moments, the seemingly meaningless conversations? What if we treated every moment as if it were an opportunity to "make someone's day"? As if the information you are gathering would allow you to use your influence, creativity, and actions to improve their experience with you, the organization, and life in general?
Your actions, decisions, and behaviors impact those you interact with. Whatever your decision, you will have an impact, positive or negative. The decision is yours. So next time you find yourself in a conversation asked for or not, you are in a unique opportunity to change someone's interaction from meh to unforgettable.