I’ll get to the picture on the left in just a bit. First, let’s talk about the importance of self-esteem. Maintaining or enhancing an employee’s self esteem is a critical component to being an effective leader. Each of us has a desire to be considered a competent, valuable human being. Anything that a manager does to undermine or attack self-esteem is destructive. Often times, the manager has no idea they are even doing anything to damage it. But when it happens, it has a profound effect on the relationship between the two individuals involved. Very few people respond to negative experiences with their manager. In fact, there is evidence that suggests that employees perform just as we expect them to. Whether you believe they can perform the job, or you believe they cannot, they will meet your expectations.
Now on to the picture above. Something happened to me last week that had an impact on me. This is not a story about managers and employees, but it makes my point about self-esteem. I’ve been traveling to Bogota, Colombia now for 10 years. Each time I visit, I stay in the same hotel. It’s called 101 Park House. That’s it in the picture. From time to time over that 10 year period, I’ve held training classes and certifications in one of the hotel meeting rooms. The first time this happened, I think it was about 2005, but my memory is foggy on that point, the Service Captain for my meeting room was a young man named Aldemar. The Service Captain is the person who makes sure all your needs are attended to during the meeting. Breaks, lunch, water, room temperature, all fall under this person’s job responsibilities.
During the course of the week I was there, I would find myself in the room before the participants would arrive and on those occasions, I would often end up chatting with Aldemar. In fact we had a deal. He was going to work on his English (it was one of his goals), and I would work on my Spanish. I would tell him that I was looking forward to the end of the day so I could enjoy a “cerveza, muy fria”. Aldemar would then say, “Yes, a very cold beer will be nice”. Each conversation was enjoyable, and at the end of the week I boarded the airplane and headed for home.
Now to last week. I was meeting in the hotel, and as I was walking down the hallway toward my meeting room, someone called from across the room, “Mr. Tim”! It was Aldemar! Aldemar now operates his own company that is in the field of IT, and he was holding a meeting for his company in the hotel. It was so nice to be remembered, and I was flattered that he recognized me after all this time.
The impact of that brief encounter was not lost on me. First, Aldemar made an impression on me the first time we met and I remember those short conversations to this day. Secondly, without knowing it, I did something that caused him to remember me as well. In a time where interactions with service providers are either transactional (at best) or negative (at worst), we were able to enhance each others self-esteem to the point it created a memory.
The message here for the managers out there is simple. You never know when someone who works for you will re-enter your life. They may end up working for you in another company. They may become a client. They may even become your boss at some point in your career. Make sure you do everything in your power to make a positive imprint on their experience with you. It’s pretty important.