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Insights: Serving Others with Joy
July 15, 2008

Serving Others with Joy

If you had the good fortune of being able to take a little time off during the school holidays then I trust you were able to relax and enjoy it thoroughly.

The last week has, by all accounts, been pretty eventful for me. I’ll share with you why in just a moment, but as I reflect on my experiences, the whole issue of how we serve others comes sharply into focus.

Last week-end I received a call from my sister in Port Elizabeth with the sad news that my elderly mother (who had been battling Alzheimer’s for some time) had taken a turn for the worse.

Sensing the real concern in my sister’s voice, I called my brother and suggested we fly up at short notice. We left on Monday afternoon and I planned to get back on Wednesday around midday to be with my wife on the occasion of her ‘big’ birthday (I’ve been forbidden to share the number, save to say it definitely wasn’t 21!)

As it happened, our return flight from PE was cancelled due to technical difficulties and we ended up arriving back home some six hours later than planned.

Then, on Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed a wonderful celebration of my wife’s ‘coming of (an undisclosed) age’ at a beautiful venue overlooking the sea, in the company of some very good friends. We arrived home later that night, full of ‘bon ami’ only to be confronted by a late night call to advise that my mother had passed on.

So, as you can imagine, last week was something of an emotional roller coaster ride.

As I sat last night reflecting on the week’s experiences and searching for some inspiration for this week’s edition of Insights, it dawned on me that I had received a few potent lessons in what it means to be in the business of serving others. And since that’s close to my heart, I thought I would share my experiences.

I will always feel a deep gratitude for the ladies who looked after my Mum in her comfortable but very modest old age home in PE. Each time I visited her there I felt at ease, comforted by the warm smiles, friendly chat and caring attention of the staff. These are people who clearly take pride in doing their demanding jobs; people who feel a genuine love and respect for the frail senior citizens in their care.

At the airport, my brother and I were to experience starkly contrasting examples of customer service, as we had to come to terms with the cancellation of our return flight and the prospect of a late arrival at home.

The first person who attended to us found it difficult to look in our eyes, treated us as if the cancellation was a far greater inconvenience to them than to us and did their level best to convince us that the only way out was to fly back to Cape Town via Johannesburg – offering us the inviting option to “take it or leave it”!

After regrouping to overcome our miffed feelings, my brother and I decided to try our chances with a different check-in attendant at the other end of the hall.

To our surprise and great relief we happened upon someone whose idea of customer service was 180 degrees removed from the previous person. We were smiled at, offered profuse apologies, showered with free vouchers, given extended stay access to the business class lounge and assured (correctly) that a way would be found to get us on one of the later direct flights, despite them all showing up on the system as full.

On Saturday evening I was to experience truly excellent service from a young man at the restaurant where we chose to celebrate my wife’s birthday. The man, who was the first person I came into contact with on arrival, took a genuine interest in us and assumed personal responsibility for ensuring that everything went off well, despite the fact that he was on duty in a different part of the restaurant complex. Nothing, it seemed, was too much trouble.

I try to make a point of personally thanking people who go out of their way to serve me, or people I am with, or care for. I am always curious to understand what it is that motivates them to ‘go the extra mile’ so I’m not afraid to ask them.

In each of the examples of caring service that I mentioned above, the answer I got was in the same mould and – if not exactly these words - then something very similar:

“I feel great joy and pride in being able to bring happiness to the people I serve. Making them feel good makes me feel good and that makes for a win-win.”

Joy and happiness are infectious. A relatively small effort on someone’s part can be multiplied many times throughout society.

Of course the opposite is true too. Those who choose to serve others as if they were a troublesome inconvenience in their life set up lose-lose events.

Unfortunately, sadness and unhappiness tend to rub off on others too. Our human nature is such that we tend to talk far more freely about negative experiences than positive.

I’m sure you’ve heard the marketing wisdom – receive great service and you’ll tell, on average, three other people about your experience; receive poor service and you’ll tell nine others!

Now, here’s the point that I want to make.

Robert Louis Stevenson once said: “Everyone lives by selling something.”

I’ll offer a new angle on this.

“Everyone spends at least part of their life in service of others.”

Think about that for a minute. In some form or other, directly or indirectly, each one of us spends our life – or part of it - in service of other people.

If that’s true then I’m sure you’ll agree we should seek to perform that service in a way that imparts the greatest joy and happiness.

Next time you find yourself in a position of service to others, whether that be as simple as making your partner a cup of tea or as involved as addressing a gathering of shareholders in your company, stop and check your attitude.

Ask yourself: “Am I doing this with the intent to feel good and promote joy and happiness or am I approaching this as a necessary inconvenience that I want to get done and out the way as soon as possible?”

If you tend to be inclined to the latter mentality then here’s some great advice in the form of my favourite quote from Dr Wayme Dyer:

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change”.

Perhaps you’ve read this week’s message nodding your head throughout? Perhaps serving others is something you truly relish and enjoy? Perhaps making others smile and laugh is how you get your kicks? Perhaps that’s the way you’d like to live your life?

If so, then I invite you to consider a career as a life coach. There can be few careers as fulfilling as helping others to succeed in life and achieve their dreams. And good life coaches are well rewarded. Why shouldn’t they be? Success breeds success!

The New Insights life coach training programme is designed for people who are passionate about helping others realize their full potential while enjoying a life of personal freedom, confidence and growth themselves.

You bring the passion and we’ll provide the knowledge, skills and system.

I invite you to visit our website or contact me personally if you’d like to discuss this great opportunity further.

With warm regards


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