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It’s the small things that make the biggest difference

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Last week I was having lunch in the Members café at the British Museum a few days after the start of a major new exhibition. It was busier than I’d ever seen it, and the team of people behind the counter were doing their best to cope despite a growing queue of customers. Two customers sat down at the table next to mine and started to complain to each other about the inefficiency of the café. The waitress, who I have always experienced as being very friendly and customer-focused, brought them over their coffees and apologised for the wait. They then proceeded to complain quite vociferously about how useless she and the team were. In a very British way I kept quiet and said nothing, but I could see that the waitress was very upset. I spent the next few minutes finishing my lunch and wondering what I should do. As I left, I took the waitress aside and gave her a few words of genuine appreciation, and told her that despite what these people had said, I could see how busy they were and that they were doing their best. The transformation in her face was immediate, her energy returned, she looked genuinely relieved and thanked me profusely for what I had said.

It would have been so easy for me to walk away and say nothing, after all it was none of my business. But it just seemed like the right thing to do, and by taking a few seconds to give her a small piece of appreciation, not only did I make a positive difference to her day, I also felt good about myself.

Reflecting on my executive coaching clients over the past few years, I also see that in many instances, it’s the small changes that make the biggest difference. Continue reading