There is something about hunger that gives one the authority to act a little crazy, or, let me rephrase this: When one is hungry they act crazy with clarity and I was hungry when I wrote this post.
It is almost a year since I have been Retelling Retail. This part-time position at selling handbags, has afforded me the opportunity to see men and women in a fashionable and trendy new way. While selling leather goods and accessories I am completely immersed in the adventure of assisting individuals with the finer dilemmas of life—the struggle to find the right some-thing, to brighten their day; savvy and sharpen up their tired wardrobes; purchase a nice something-or-other to impress their friends when they are out on a Friday night and last, but not least—to help hide or disguise their more-than-one-shoe box and hand bag purchases from their husbands. (Yes, hubbies it is true! Your loving and trusting wives are lying to you! But if they are lying to you, could you, would you, are you, lying to them?)
And when I hand write the thank you notes to my customers at the end of every shift, I sincerely mean every word that I think and every word that I write to them. My notes always begin with, “it has been a pleasure helping you…” It is always a delight to help others, even the ones who come in with some discord in their demeanor or a boulder on their shoulder, there is always something one can say to help brighten someone else’s day. There is always an opportunity to make someone—laugh. We have customers who continually come into the store chatting away on their cell phones, brushing their hands against the “goods”, all the while not even noticing that you exist, let alone that you kindly and politely welcomed them into the store.
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When a woman comes in to buy something for herself it seems to make her feel that all of her efforts with her roles in life are validated. Whether she is a stay-at-home-mom, career woman or just a professional shopper, it is always a pleasure to help someone with the finer dilemmas of life. After all, we are selling handbags, we are not struggling nurses and doctors in the ICU or ER of a hospital, trying to help people hold onto their lives or the lives of loved ones—we are assisting mostly women with their shopping excursions and “needs”. We are accessorizing and selling accouterments that will enhance the experiences of our customers who find themselves in a conundrum over what-looks-and-feels—best! The perspective is easy: If people are shopping for things to decorate their external world, it should not be a chore for the customer or the sales associate.
Yet it sometimes is.
The store is reminiscent of a large and cozy stage if one has any imagination at all to envision it that way and on this stage we have a very colorful cast of characters. Some are funny. Some are droll and some have no personality—at all… There are the Subtle Grumpy’s too, they roll their eyes, make questionable facial contortions when they want to talk about another employee, (I always found this tactic and clever form of manipulation interesting. I have former relatives with whom I have seen do this when wanting to create doubt in how someone viewed a mutual acquaintance or relative—or even me! When someone wants to get a secretive message out about how they adversely feel towards another, they can easily do so by stretching and pulling certain facial muscles; ( raising eyebrows is a real giveaway as well as bulging eyeballs.) A distinctive throwing back of their head or a shifting of it from side to side, along with some very animated negative body language, often creates doubt from our original opinion of another. My experience is that it is always best to trust yourself and your own encounters with someone—then there is no real need to question the trust of anyone …
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Every several weeks the entire cast of The Lion King shows up to redecorate the mannequins and rooms with colorful, new and exciting product. Just to see newness makes you want to buy one of every-thing! These animated characters prance and dance around the store with their pirouettes as if they are searching in a tangled jungle for their very own Pride Land, only they must have forgotten the lyrics to the song, “We Are One”, for they not only forgot to bring Mufasa and young Simba along, but they act as though they have a better dressed and more talented God than we do and (!) that their God is separate from ours!
(How does self-importance get born anyway? Are these Window Dressers and employees of this large corporation that is supposed to be founded on integrity and honesty (and not self-importance) aware that there is an entire world out there separate from their egos?)
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“A good manager is a (man) who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the career of those who work for him.”
Then we have the main actors in the play: Management; the formally trained dancers and singers and comedians! Personally, I have seen everyone from associate to manager do a little jig on the floor and hum or actually attempt to sing the songs on the repetitive store music track. I have yet to follow suit, as I know better: I cannot dance and I cannot sing but my imagination can create a tune or two…with a twist of a word and a stretching of a vowel, I can even rhyme! But if I were to sing and dance on the shopping-mall-store- floor, what would I sing and dance to?
“Management is efficiency climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
Stephen R. Covey
The challenge for upper management is to not give total authority to the chattering and opinions of the staff or for sake of this article, “the extras in the play” no matter the hierarchy of any one given employee. Upper management must be able to discern, based on some of their own observations and hands on experiences, what is good, true and false with any particular situation or person. This is where superiors must have a keen acumen in order to trust their own insight and personal involvement with their staff. However, it is not always possible to be physically present, thus there is fertile ground for misinterpretation, misdirection and misguidance. This is how the seeds of chaos in the workplace are planted and little or inconsistent productivity prevails.
Sometimes the best way to manage a team is to simply watch and observe what is going on back stage: “Point the finger! Point the finger! Point the finger! And pass the buck while you’re at it! Put the light on her and pull the curtain away from him…”
(This is what you will hear when managers do not lead.)
“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception,
the one who lies with sincerity.”
One of my favorite quotes is from Socrates, “A lie never lives to be old.” But as I have seen from adventures with people in my own life, that the cover up of a lie can last a lifetime. The true hypocrite is not the uncommon man, rather he or she is quite common. Most of us experience these individuals in all of our relationships, work, as well as in our families and personal friendships. Anyone who has ever been in a sales position or a corporate role knows to watch out for the one who seems to be everybody’s “pal”. In every place of businesses there is The Information Gatherer; the most interested in your life and what makes you tick. We all know the lie in the eyes of the one who takes the sale from their co-workers and offers to “put it through” in their name. However, often the individual who sold the merchandise is not always the person who gets the credit for the sale as the clever cashier manages to switch the sale to their name. The birth of competition is unfortunate. A key component in successful selling must have a respectable level of integrity. When employees do not possess moral uprightness, how can the company? One should be interested in the success of oneself in how they grow according to one's own personal goals. However, in the real world, corporations foster competition, whether you receive commission or not. Brownie Points are given at all levels of employment and the bottom line is always about how much was earned, won or--lost...(or sometimes, stole.)
Yet I wonder: What would it take if we all, for a moment looked into the person we were working with, and rather than find their flaws or inadequacies or our competition, we saw how they were feeling? What if we could connect with them on a deep and sincere level and not need to pocket their information for some future selling opportunity or motive? What if we could take a moment and empathize, validate, nurture and then carry on with our day of selling goods? We would then form a bond with our fellow humans/co-workers rather than the toxic and festering pecking at anyone. When we try to bring one down we end up bringing down the entire cast and when that happens? Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes and Pie in the face for everyone!
This is why the world is filled with little Darwinites, in every field and profession, or sea scavengers -- Baby Adults trying to survive by casting a brighter light on themselves rather than sharing the sun with their fellow human being or co-worker.
I am always impressed with the associate or manager who is so subtly condescending in their appearance to guide employees, as they secretly and sneakily hide behind a mask of "helpful assistance" like a kindergartner trying to look good in front of their teacher for extra teacher’s-pet-points. Always they appear to the audience that they are “doing a job well done" always looking for the sound of the audience applauding for him/her, especially when others are watching…Even these tactics, which do not go unnoticed by me are harmless. I chuckle under my breath and carry on with my day knowing that eventually, the curtain will close and the lights will go out and everyone will go home to their other worlds and lives and all the misinterpretations and misunderstandings of the day will be exactly that: misinterpretations and misunderstandings. Yet for the rare few who truly lead and manage, they will see things as they are and guide the others accordingly, without the need for applause or fanfare. For anyone who has ever been in a successful leadership position knows the euphoria of guiding others to achievements and successes over and above their own desires and dreams.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more
and become more, you are a leader.”
John Quincy Adams
In my own life I have witnessed for many years the Boo Who’ers of the world. Individuals, relatives who willingly offer to crash down on your happiness and enthusiasm for your dreams. Have you noticed? The Dreamers are the happy ones! They are the helpers during the hurricanes and tornados! The Dreamers support the Dreams of others. (Remember? Wasn’t that little Miss. Dorothy who ran away in the eye of the storm, chasing a rainbow and some dream? And all turned out OK for Dorothy and her three friends! And it can for you too!)
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At some point in all of our lives we are given opportunities to take our place on the Stage of Life, center enter We and it is in this grateful moment where we have the blessed opportunity to make, not only ourselves shine like the brightest star in the sky, but to also show others that the Stage, as well as the unlimited sky and countless stars—belongs to them too! There is no competition for space, for the sky is as vast as our hearts will allow it to be. There is room for us all and when we feel this—know this, we see, without effort how we are all a great big part of some wonderful and wonder-filled Opportunity to not miss. That opportunity is—life.
And what does this long-winded piece have to do with hunger and the handbag? Hunger brings clarity. Ask anyone who has been hungry. They see things with an empty stomach and with an empty stomach your mind has not time and no-thing in it to get in its way to see things as they truly are. And for all of you who do not know what I am talking about? Try it some time. Go into a gourmet shop, on an empty stomach and no credit cards or cash. If you are thirsty—all the better! If you do not leave with some extra clarity in your back pocket, repeat this little adventure until some-thing clicks in your mind or better yet, repeat this action until all clicking is absent!
And if I ever join in the singing and dancing on the mall, store center room floor, with my handbag friends, what would I like to sing and dance to? In my best Rafiki voice, I would roar,
“On the day we arrived on this planet and blinking step into the sun,
there is more to see than can ever be seen or to do or then can ever be done,
there is far too much to take in here or to find that can ever be found
but the sun rolling high through the sapphire sky keeps the great and small on the endless round…
it’s the circle of life and it moves us all through faith and love till we find our place on the path unwinding—in the circle of life…”
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If we can all remember that The Stage of Life is all-of-ours we will hear a music so clear and inviting that we will want to be a part of that sound always. On the Stage of Life, we can find the best part of every one, every Story, every Play, every Musical and most importantly, when we look for the very best in others—there too we will discover how the Center of the Stage is where we all really are, to-ge-ther, leading and guiding each other to brighter days ahead…”
So, when that Clock is about to strike 12 and that noon train is approaching around the bend; the tracks are laden with golden bricks pointing in a Direction and your life is asking you: Decide, Decide, Decide...what is true for you? who are you going to listen to? Your heart or your mind?
(only time will tell...)