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Martinis, the doorman and me.

September 14th, 2015

 

doorman

It’s a hot, late afternoon in Covent Garden, London, and I am trying to find the Martini Bar, it’s a small birthday gathering for a friend. I’m late, lost and therefore rattled. Google maps isn’t doing its job, the Martini bar just isn’t where it should be, and I’m supposed to be there to greet people. I pass yet another swanky bar and there is a smartly dressed, good-looking, beefy young doorman, watching the passers-by. I stride towards him and ask him quickly, ‘DoyouknowwheretheMartinibaris?’ He looks at me, laughs and says ‘Yes I know where it is and I can show you exactly which way to go… but you really haven’t asked me very nicely’. He takes me by the shoulders,  swings me round, points up the street and says ‘I’m just going to bend down a bit, because you’re not very tall, and I want to make sure that you can see where I am pointing’. By this time I am also laughing. We make sure that I am absolutely certain where to go. I thank him and apologise for having been too abrupt in my first request. He says. ‘Well next time, just make sure you say good evening before you ask for something’. We wish each other a nice evening and I head on my way.

This interaction with the doorman, embarrassing as it was, was also a really lovely reminder of three important life lessons. Firstly, how easily I can let a current mood affect my interaction. In a work scenario we (I) tend to be more cautious and careful. With our guard down, at home for instance, or in a context where we’re not dealing with people who immediately matter so we aren’t thinking about relationships, it’s easy to let our mood drive our interaction, to lose our self-awareness, to only think of our own needs. But random strangers do matter, and there’s so much to learn from everyone. That scratchy first encounter, all down to me, was transformed into a positive experience by the doorman’s skill, not mine, with all my 30 years’ experience in developing leaders. He let me know exactly what my impact was, and what I could do differently, in a kind, human, relaxed way. That’s lesson number two: feedback on impact can come from anywhere, if we’re open to it. And thirdly: how I underestimated that doorman, because of his role. Doormen, like anyone whose job is to serve the public directly, day after day, are of course adept at reading body language and constantly have to make instant judgements about people and choose how to respond to them. As I’m now acutely aware, it’s very easy to underestimate what they have to offer.

(The more I think about this, the worse it gets! Where did my values go? I need to go back to first principles.)

And by the way: this year’s favourite Martini comes with strawberry and black pepper, and vodka, not gin.

You heard it here first.

  1. I had a similar experience with a French pizza waiter who said “no bonjour? no ca va?” I tried very hard not to feel ashamed and settled for ‘sobered’ instead. A lovely blog reminder of our shared humanity and how easy it is to forget it!

    by: Lucy on September 14, 2015 at 10:24 am
    • I feel your pain!

      by: Anne Owen on September 20, 2015 at 11:22 am
  2. Nicely written and honest. Never underestimate the skill and patience of people who spend their lives dealing with the public!

    by: Andy on September 15, 2015 at 5:39 am
  3. written with characteristic wit, warmth and a gentle punch. I really like your posts Annie.

    by: Alison on October 26, 2015 at 1:28 am
    • Thanks Alison. Your attentive reading is much appreciated. 🙂

      by: Anne Owen on November 3, 2015 at 4:16 pm

 

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