Looking for Opportunities to Serve



Partners search for opportunities to support, contribute, and be of service.

That's the bottom line message of the keynote I am delivering about right now on Powerful Partnerships.  It reminds me of my days in high school when I was a restaurant server.

Our restaurant was divided into sections of 6-8 tables, each assigned to an individual server.  My first few days I spent a lot of time watching other servers to see what I could learn.  Here are two lessons I picked up that I think reflect critical components of powerful partnerships.

Look for opportunities to serve. 

Some of my server colleagues engaged in what I call "one at a time" service.  They saw a table in their section needed something, went to that table, did what needed to be done, and then returned to the server work area by the kitchen.  This process occurred repeatedly each time they noted a table in need … back and forth, back and forth.

Other servers regularly walked through their section, scanning all their tables to see where they could be of service.  Or if they made a trip to serve a specific table, they always looked around to see if they take care of any other tables at the same time.  While this seems like the obviously better approach, you'd be surprised how many servers simply react to a customer need instead of proactively look for opportunities to serve.

Own the whole.

Despite the fact that we didn't pool and divide tips (you only kept the tips from your tables), a few servers regularly went "out of their way" to help take care of customers in other sections … offering coffee refills, clearing dishes, responding to requests.  

Since sections were adjacent to each other, it hardly made sense to ignore a request for coffee from a table not in your section, if you're going to walk right by them with a pot to offer refills to a table in your own.  As you might guess though, that's exactly what some servers would do, seeing their job as serving only their section as opposed to helping provide customer service to anyone in the restaurant while primarily focusing on their own tables.

The best partnerships I've been a part of were ones in which each of us owned the whole, looking for opportunities to contribute to the success of the overall partnership and not just serve our specific areas of responsibility. We shouldn't see doing so as going out of our way, but instead should see it as the only way to go.

What's been your experience with what helps make powerful partnerships?