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An Invitation to Interact: The Power of One Person

It’s amazing how much impact a single individual can have on an organization’s service or teamwork through a combination of personality and thoughtful action. When you see it happen in front of you it gives you hope for all service and all teamwork.

Have you ever been somewhere and actually felt the place change as soon as a particular person walked in? I was at a Starbucks one morning: The store was only moderately crowded, and although the staff all seemed to be engaged in doing their jobs, there was no hum of activity, no positive buzz in the air.

Then a young woman walked in, and lit up the room. As she headed behind the counter, she called out to a couple of customers in greeting, told one she liked his haircut, and waved to a couple more. Before she even started work, she had already smiled more than any of the other staffers had in the 15 minutes I’d observed, maybe more than all of them put together.

Know Your Customers, and Everyone Else

She kept up a constant chatter with both the customers and the staff. “You have a good workout?” she asked one of the baristas, and then turned to the customer who was waiting and chatted to her too. “Just one more minute,” she called over to a guy waiting for his drink. He nodded, his patience renewed by her contact.

She knew another customer’s usual drink order and checked on which accoutrements he wanted that day. “How are you doing?” she asked everyone. Some of her colleagues who had seemed, well, less lively earlier perked up and became more conversational too.

Yes, the volume in the place went up as the entire vibe lifted. Even when you couldn’t hear her words you could pick out her lively inflection. It wasn’t a commanding tone, exactly, but it definitely held the expectation of interacting and being interacted with — and for things to be good between her and everyone else. And it worked! She was infectiously upbeat and personable.

“Do you need any milk over here? Ice?” she asked a colleague as soon as she had a minute to check.

“How’ve you been? How’s everything?” she asked each regular customer.

One Generous Act Leads to Another

I went to get an extra drink just to interact with her. It came to $3.10. I handed her four ones. She gave me back a single — “I always start the day with a little extra,” she said, letting me know that she was trying to make it more convenient for me. “I actually wanted the change,” I told her, pointing to the tip box. “We’re both trying to be nice!” I added. “Then you’ll have a refill on me,” she said. We grinned at each other.

I certainly didn’t need any more caffeine. But the offer itself was favor enough. She had the effect of a patch of sunlight on a cat — everyone relaxed in her warmth and stretched themselves a bit. You could see people breathe a little deeper and shake their shoulders out just from being around her, enjoying a small, pleasant feeling of comfort. Her interaction was a beautiful thing to watch and a beautiful contribution to everyone’s day.

Do you ever get to experience this kind of warm and welcoming service? Is there someone as generous as this lovely woman from Starbucks on your team? Or perhaps you’re like this yourself. In any case, what a gift!

Onward and upward,


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2 thoughts on “An Invitation to Interact: The Power of One Person

  1. It’s amazing how contagious emotions can be – for good, as in this anecdote, which had me smiling as I read it. Or for bad, as in the proverbial one bad apple that does spoil the whole bunch.

    It’s evident that this exemplary employee has good emotional management skills. She is fully engaged – in her job, and with her colleagues and her customers. That kind of genuine enthusiasm bubbles up from the heart and is felt and modelled by those around her – “lit up the room”, “the volume in the place went up”, “everyone relaxed in her warmth”.

    On the other hand, one person’s lack of good emotional management skills can infect those around him/her with a emotional virus – one that leaves people feeling out of sorts – uncooperative, unproductive or unhappy.

    It’s important to “immunize” – to equip all stakeholders with techniques that help them improve their emotional resilience so that they can develop an immunity to that emotional virus.

  2. “Social contagion” suggests that it might also be possible to have communities of emotional health — entire teams that know how to feel good and help other people feel good. You’re like a starter node for that, Marianna!

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