Empowerment – You Want Strawberry or Cinnamon?

by Andy Wood on July 16, 2008

in Enlarging Your Capacity, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Cycle, LV Stories

River Smith 3Hungry?  A couple of years ago a local institution here decided it was time for a second location.  River Smith’s Chicken and Catfish had been serving up good food since 1976, and built a second restaurant on the south side of Lubbock.

Even though I grew up on the Gulf Coast, seafood isn’t usually on the top of my culinary agenda.  In fact, I can count on one finger the number of times I craved seafood.  So you can imagine my wife’s surprise when I said, on a Friday no less, “Let’s get seafood.”  Then I remembered that River Smith’s had opened their new location, so I suggested we check it out.

I’m sure that wherever you live it’s probably the same way, but when a new restaurant opens in Lubbock, you may as well get ready for a wait.  But it was after 8:00, and I figured maybe the movie crowd would have left by then.

Wrong.  The place was packed.  But we were pretty leisurely, and decided to go ahead and brave it.  At River Smith’s, you order at the counter, and they give you a numbered buzzer that you place on a rack at your table so the server knows where to bring the order.  I should have known there might be a problem when the lady that took the order had run out of buzzers and grabbed one from a different register.  Nevertheless, we took our drinks and buzzer and somehow found a seat to wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

Again, we weren’t in a hurry or even frustrated.  But I did catch a server passing by and asked her if she could check on our order.

Impress me #1:
She stood right there and, on her little mic-and-earpiece thingy, called the kitchen to ask.  “They’re just getting it ready,” she replied, though I actually think they had lost the order.

“Great,” says I.

Impress me #2:
Another server, dressed exactly the same (translation:  not a manager), stops by pretty quickly after that and asks, “Is there a problem with your order?”

“Oh, no problem, I just wanted somebody to check on it,” I said.  “They said it was on the way.”

“Well,” she said, “can I get you some complimentary dessert puffs while you wait?”  In case you’re uncultured, I should probably explain that a “puff” is a canned biscuit, deep fried, and covered with some kind of really good topping.

“Sure,” I said.

“Would you like cinnamon or strawberry?” she asked.

“Oh, bring me a little of both,” I said casually.

A little of both!  She returned in mere minutes with two platters of puffs – eight each –with our meal trailing right behind.   Eight people could have pigged out on those things.

Or two!

Impress me #3:
The more I have time to sit there and think about it, while I’m stuffed with puff, the more I realize who I didn’t see.  Nobody talked to a manager.  Nobody used the words, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”  Nobody hid behind company policy, or blamed the kitchen, the crowd or anyone else for the problem.

Here was a place that actually equipped employees with solutions to people’s problems, then gave them the green light to use them.

My mind was reeling with the possibilities.

What if people in my church were armed to solve problems like that?  Who knows?  Maybe we’d actually become a kingdom of priests.

What if families actually empowered their children (age appropriate, of course) to solve problems, including making decisions that everyone in the family respected?  Maybe they’d actually become adults when they grow up.

What if other bosses – retailers, manufacturers, university deans, customer “service” departments, tech support divisions, contractors – actually trained people to make decisions that solved customers’ problems, then trusted people to make them?  It may not change the world overnight.  But maybe – just maybe – those employees would stick around.  And maybe somebody would actually let a human answer the phone.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

carissa July 16, 2008 at 5:29 pm

ha, i liked this one. really interesting application about being a kingdom of priests, but actually quite thought-inciting. i’ll have to think about that idea some more later.

carissas last blog post..What does it mean to be a Christian?

Valerie Smith July 18, 2008 at 2:56 pm

I was so inspired by this story that I sent the link to my boss who was also so touched she distributed it throughout our department here. I wanted you to know that you touched so many of us in different ways by sharing this.

Valerie Smiths last blog post..What I want to be when I grow up

Andy Wood July 18, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Thanks Carissa and Valerie for the encouragement! And Valerie, thanks a lot for sharing it with others.

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