One of my favourite video clips. Many of you will have seen this before, but for me, I enjoy it every time.
A recent experience at a highly rated hotel in Arizona reminded me of a phenomena that seems to have limitless boundaries. It’s that little, nagging unaware habit that many people have always had or have developed over their lives. It’s something that can occur culturally in an organization or institution or, most disappointingly, in a customer service focused environment. That little habit is a blind spot. Its other nick name could also be called ‘it’s not in my box’. While the two phrases can found independent or inter-related to the other, it is its commonness that I find unsettling.
“An S.E.P.,” he said, “is something that we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what S.E.P. means. Somebody else’s problem. The brain just edits it out. It’s like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won’t see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye.” – Life, the Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams.
What gave me hope to my ‘not in my box’ poolside ‘towel guy’ (it appeared that his only role was to put towels on a table and not to be aware that he could go and remove used towels from the chaises) was that while a number of others operated similarly to him in their own roles, at least a few gems had the ability to see beyond the basic framework of their job description and have awareness of service. And when those few people that had the ability to not let a small thing be ‘someone else’s problem’, the effect it had was tremendously positive.
Too often do people shut their mind or sight lines to edit out things that they may not wish to see. Most especially critical is when this habit or trait finds itself residing in those in leadership roles. As I reflect on my life, I think that I became more adept at seeing outside my box when I became a parent. As a mother, and to the chagrin of most children and young adults, “I’m always watching”. With some practice, I believe, that for the most part, you can take off the blinders that limit us and actually see things through a wider lense. It’s amazing the possibilities that abound and the effect it has on others. Employers, be aware of fostering a culture where people are encouraged to have a wide angle view of their workplace and of their surroundings. And for employees and for everybody, it takes practice. We are human, after all.