A few months ago, after a long day of work, I decided to make a stop at the grocery store to pick up a few things. I had a grocery list formed in my mind before arriving, so it was my desire to get in and out before the Dallas traffic noticed another car on the road. Well, it seemed as though everyone near Downtown Dallas had the same idea. After gathering the things that I needed I walked over to get in line. There were three people in front of me. The cashier was not present at the time. I noticed him as he returned to the station. He started to service the customers. When he reached the customer in front of me, he replied “This line is closed.” I replied, “How can your line be closed and I’m in it?”. He said, “I didn’t see you in line. These folks were already in line. I’m sorry.” I mean this guy makes a full-on announcement. In the moment, a few thoughts started to race to the front of the line in my mind.
When is it appropriate to tell the customer waiting while holding groceries in their hand – “My line is closed”? While the purpose of this blog is not customer service, clearly there were missing elements to exceptional customer service, right?
Should I take a moment to coach this guy by asking a series of clarifying questions then ask for the number to the corporate office?
So, the gentleman standing in front of me remained silent through the exchange. What’s that about? I guess he didn’t notice a person standing behind him. I notice everything.
Then, this thought claimed it’s spot at the front of the line in my mind. Just because you didn’t see me, doesn’t mean I wasn’t there.
The statement met me again around 2am the next day. Needless to say, this blog is about three months in the making. Yes, this occurred in a grocery store and quite frankly, everything in my life is not content for a blog, but underneath the surface of that statement was a treasure I needed to uncover.
The race to be first, to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be promoted, to be seen, to be heard, to be respected, to be named is not a bad thing. In our culture and if we scale down to our families, we’ll notice a common thread. We’ve been taught to work to be first, not second. Do your best, while you wait your turn. Hard work and effort will always be noticed. When I was growing up, there was a winner and a loser at the end of the game. Everyone did not get a trophy. I’m just sayin’.
Personal growth and development suggests that we are all in line—progressing forward with our plans, goals and dreams.
The desire for someone to acknowledge your work and your effort is not a bad thing. The need to be heard and respected doesn’t mean you’re arrogant or prideful. I believe in some ways it’s normal and can be healthy when it passes through the right filter.
Here’s what I mean. If the need to be noticed or acknowledged is greater than the need to simply give and do your best when no one is looking, therein lies a greater challenge. If the need to be named and respected means you downplay or discredit the work of a coworker to boost your contribution, therein lies a greater challenge. Forcing our way to the front never secures the spot, it only shines a light on the insecurity we are wrestling with inside.
I’ve worked in several industries over the course of 20 years. From Education to Oil and Gas to Ministry and Hospitality. I’ve watched people force their way to the front of the line and for me I’ve simply tried to let my work speak louder. Yes, I’ve even had other people take credit for ideas that I’ve brought to the table in the most masterful way. I’ve looked on while others I’ve helped, move hurriedly past me without thinking to look back and say thanks. Some of it is life happening, and the other part is fuel for the rest of the journey. The measure of a person rest deeply in what they say to and believe about themselves. You can’t give that much power to another human. They are trying to find their way too.
Here’s what I tell myself often and it’s also what I believe to be true:
- I have what it takes; whether the people around me acknowledge it or me.
- God, place me around the people who see me and are excited to see me soar, even if it means I have to fly in a space that doesn’t include them.
- Your integrity matters most. Don’t cut corners. Don’t make excuses. Give your best every time.
- Helping others shine, always helps your heart remain true to your core values.
Trust me when I tell you, I’m always talking to myself and the dialogue includes much more than this blog can handle, but you get the point.
So, what happened after my thoughts were racing in the grocery store that day? Well, I moved to another line and a few minutes later the same cashier came back to his station and welcomed customers. I stayed in the line I was in, paid for my groceries and left. Yes, there were people that entered the store after me and had paid for their groceries and were leaving while I was still in line. I thought to myself “I wonder if the announcement and the few minutes he spent doing whatever he was doing was worth it?”. Who knows? But, the thought I had while standing there was worth it for me. Just because you didn’t see me in line, doesn’t mean I wasn’t there! The moves that I make from the back of the line, secure my place at the front anyway.
Have you had challenges waiting your turn?
How have you navigated your need to be seen or acknowledged for the work you do?
Your friend and coach,
Stacey Joseph Harris