Lessons from My Mother: Consideration for Others
By Mark Fallon
“A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally.” - Oscar Wilde
Growing up, the local newspaper had a “Quote of the Day” feature. Sometimes, my mother would point out a quote that would make her smile. If she thought a quote was one I should remember, she would cut it out and hand it to me. To this day, I still collect quotes that carry lessons.
I was in college when she handed me the Oscar Wilde quote. Up to that moment, I’d limited my definition of a gentleman to someone with good manners. I opened doors for others, said “sir” and “ma’am”, and knew how to order in a restaurant. Now, I had to be considerate of the feelings of others?
For the hardcore business types tempted to skip this article because it’s about soft skills like “consideration” and “feelings”, don’t be so quick. Soft skills have a direct impact on hard numbers – like employee productivity, customer retention and profits. Besides, your mother would consider not finishing the article as being impolite.
Most of us have memories of our mothers as caregivers who put their own needs last. Raising children, running a household and caring for others. Mothers are special people with an exclusive place in our hearts. And like you, I know that my mother is an “extra-special” person.
Although I’m one of 10 kids, my mother always took time to make me feel that I was the most important person in the world to her at that moment. And I’ve seen her do the same for my brothers and sisters. And now she does the same for her 18 grandchildren and 2 great-grandsons.
Even with this crowd around her, my mother still succeeds at providing individual attention to each person. Attention with consideration for how we feel.
The first time my wife met my family was at a large gathering to celebrate the christening of one of my nieces. We had only been dating a few weeks and I was subjecting her to the entire clan at once. When we walked into the house, my mother came up to her, asked what she wanted to drink, then took her by the arm and said with a smile, “Come sit by me.” That moment of personal attention changed the dynamic of the entire day.
This isn’t to say that my mother never had to correct us or scold us. But even then, she made the issue about us and our actions. Not about her feelings or what the neighbors thought. And she talked to us alone about what we did wrong and the consequences for our actions.
This kind of interaction is a powerful role model for managers. How do you treat the people around you? Co-workers? Employees? Customers? How does that impact your business?
Too often, we take for granted the people we work with. Perhaps we don’t take enough time to listen to their ideas. Or, we’re answering emails and text messages on our PDAs instead of participating in meetings. Or worse, we put off answering emails and voicemails of people we don’t like.
Each of these actions aren’t just inconsiderate, they negatively impact the business as a whole. The ideas you ignore may contain the solutions you’ve been looking for. The point you missed in the meeting because you were distracted was the key point of the meeting. Failing to respond quickly meant that another problem went unsolved.
When we manage people, actions speak louder than words. We can’t treat everyone exactly the same, ignoring their backgrounds and personalities. We can’t dictate orders and refuse feedback. And we can’t be abusive when giving corrective direction.
By recognizing your staff’s individuality, you can motivate them on a personal level and hold them to the same standards on a team level. When employees know that their input is respected, they’re more likely to offer ideas and solutions. Respectful mentoring will produce better results every time.
For your customers, your motto may be, “the customer comes first”. But you must take steps to show you mean it. How quickly do you respond to a customer complaint? Do you measure the number of calls handled, or the number of problems resolved correctly? How often do you proactively ask the customer for their opinion?
Customers prefer to do business with people they like. Every customer interaction is part of the sales process. Reducing the length of customer calls doesn’t retain customers. Providing the right answers the first time does. Bad news only gets worse with time, so problems must be resolved immediately. Getting in front of a customer before they have a problem shows that they’re important to you.
At the end of this week, take a moment to review how you treated others. Honestly consider when you weren’t as polite or considerate as you could have been. Examine how these events caused negative results. Reflect on how changing your actions would have resulted in more positive outcomes.
Remember - good manners are a requirement for good business.
Happy Mother’s Day!