I was dining recently with some colleagues at a great little place near Nashville called Local Taco. Our server that evening was Hien. He was friendly and very knowledgeable about the menu, and just overall a pleasant guy.
And if that is where the story ends, it was a great dining experience. But you see, we were at the restaurant late on a week night so I had the chance to talk to Hien and within that conversation is the real story.
Hien is a student at Middle Tennessee State University studying forensic anthropology. It’s no surprise he’s waiting tables as extra money during college; but what caught my attention is the way he is approaching this job. He is intentionally looking for skills that can help him in his future career. I call those “applied skills”. Consider:
He tends bar occasionally. He told me, “I’m a friendly guy and I love to strike up a conversation with the guy or gal sitting across from me. It’s amazing what I learn about business, initiatives underway in the city and a cast of movers and shakers in the area. It’s one of the best schools I can attend, if I’ll just listen.”
Active listing and critical thinking
As a server, Hien has learned how to listen quickly to the customer as he/she provides their food and drink order. And those orders are captured on his notepad. He shared with me how those nights taking customer orders has helped him in the classroom. “I listen so much better in class because I’ve been conditioned to listen for specific information.”
Ask any server and they will tell you there is a trick to carrying a tray of drinks or food – it’s a game of balance. And Hien is no exception. As a young professional he told us you have to learn how to perform these tasks or you can’t succeed in the job. But he told me that balancing skill is paying off. “It’s helping me in sports!”. That practice pays off.”
So think about it. A job whose primary purpose is to just earn money while in school to study a completely different vocation is teaching him important skills. So how does that apply to you and me? The answer lies in our perspective and these questions:
- How often do you look for a lesson or growth in your daily routine?
- Is there an external experience you can glean a perspective that will shed new light to current problem you are trying to solve?
- What can your business learn from another organization that seems completely different from your own?
- How often do you push the pause button in your daily routine to reflect on lessons learned or opportunities for growth?
Here’s the trick. This doesn’t happen accidentally. It’s an intentional leadership habit. Hien is doing it while he serves customers. The big question is where will you?