Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Look People In The Eye When You Shake Their Hands Son"

Yesterday I was in Best Buy making a gadget purchase.
As I checked out a teen-aged Black male summoned me over to the counter.

"Do you have your Best Buy Rewards Card, sir?"

"I gave up on you all and that rewards card.  After years of using it I learned from you all that I never activated it on line and I lost all of my points.  You can keep your card.".    
You would think that they would send a prompt to the cash register saying "Customer Has Not Activated His Card".

"Hey did you realize that the two items that you purchased have a bundled discount?  You save 20% because you purchased them together".

"OK.  Now that is a tangible benefit to me, unlike your rewards card.  I may come back after all" (Just joking)

"Thank you Mr __________________" (The register got my name from the debit card that I used)

"Who is Mr ___________________?"  (Playing like I did identity theft)

Then he did something that I remind my young son to do:

He stuck out his hand and to shake my hand - and looked me in the eyes as he was shaking my hand.

I am sure that he doesn't shake all of his customer's hands.   It was likely our little comedic exchange above that prompted him to do so.

Still, after so many years of dealing with young retail cashiers (of all genders and races) who need training on customer interaction - it was good to experience a young (Black) male with good manners and awareness of his responsibilities in customer service.

With my own son, my "handshake lessons" often come after I have corrected him on some point and he is sulking.  I tell him "come here son".    I extend my hand, and then I observe if he is able to put his attitude aside and look me in the eye.

I tell him that when he is in a situation in which he is dealing with someone who can "screw him" if he pisses them off (a police officer, a boss, a teacher) - it is best for him to not escalate a conflict but to show a bit of humility OR have a mutually agreeable end in mind.    He tends to make a smart alec remark, prompting a person (ME) to stiffen my spine and raise the stakes, giving him another hoop to jump through (ie: "Now clean up this other mess since you have so much mouth"), just to see if he will back down or keep going.

In doing so I think about my own exposure to conflict when the VP at my job has tested me.   When a decision was made that pissed me off and the normal search for justification ("Why did he do that?  Does he have it out for me personally?"), in future interactions with him I apply the lessons that I teach to my son - to my own actions with an authority figure who could screw me if he chose to.

In both cases - the leader's job is to achieve success through the resources that he has at his disposal.  I want to build my son up to be a man, my VP must hit his revenue targets or he is out of a job.   In either case a narcissistic person that is focused on "All About Me And My Ego" will end up suppressing the growth of the valuable resource and thus "winning" a temporary bit of ego satisfaction but losing in the end as he fails to incubate development within his people.

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