Are you the same person with everyone?
A few years ago, I read a book in which the author suggested that the world would be a better place if we all behaved as if we lived in a small town.
The main premise for his thinking is that in a small town everyone knows everyone else. So, for example, if when driving down the street you accidentally go through a puddle and splash someone on the sidewalk, you are more likely to pull over, stop the car, and get out to apologize because you know them. You would probably even offer to pay their dry cleaning bill.
If however this same thing happened in a big city, and the person you splashed was a stranger, you might feel bad, but because you don’t know them you are not going to stop the car and get out to apologize.
I thought about this for a moment when I first read it. I consider myself to be a decent and caring person, and I would like to think that in both instances I would pull over and apologize. But I did recognize the underlying point the author was trying to make. Specifically, his not so subtle suggestion was that we treat people differently based on whether we know them or not, their position, or level of success and influence in the community etc.
Throughout my entire career as an executive coach and branding expert, I have always said that a key tenet of trust is consistency. When I talk about consistency in the context of today’s post, I am referring to the way we act when we think that no one is watching or, when there isn’t anything to be gained from a personal interaction. In other words, do you treat the mail delivery guy the same way you treat the company CEO? Or to put it another way, what if you didn’t know that the person with whom you were talking was the CEO?
At this point I usually like to share the driver cut-off story.
An individual, while on his way to an interview, was cut off by another driver. Rather than let it pass, he sped up and started honking his horn and making hand gestures that were clearly visible to driver in front of him.
Satisfied that he had let the other guy know how he felt, he continued on his journey to the interview. He didn’t notice that the driver who had cut him off was headed in the same direction. Nor did he take note that the same driver entered the very parking lot he was pulling into. He was even oblivious to the other guy’s steely eyed stare as they both entered the same elevator to go to the same floor.
Confident that he possessed the required experience and skills to land the job, he strode into the office of the interviewer, hand outstretched, with a big smile on his face, and offered a hearty “good morning.”
The gentleman on the other side of the desk quietly nodded.
Just as he positioned himself comfortably in his seat, ready to impress the person who would become his new boss, the gentleman asked a simple question . . . was that you in the car behind me who repeatedly honked his horn and made rude gestures because I had inadvertently cut you off?
What would you do in this situation? More importantly, what lesson would you take away from this experience?
One day I will share with you the outcome of this story – which may surprise you.
In the meantime, and going back to the author who in his book suggested that a small town mindset is something we should all adopt, are you the same person with everyone regardless of whether you know them or not? How do you feel about someone who treats people differently such as a manger who is gracious and pleasing to their boss but treats their subordinates in a dismissive manner?
How about a co-worker who is rude to a desk clerk at a hotel, or the wait staff at a restaurant?
Aligning who you are with the way you are perceived by others is important. This is because your brand is the sum of every experience others have had with you either directly, or by witnessing your interaction with others. Whenever there is a disconnect in this area, you lose credibility and ultimately trust.
Think of it in this way . . . someone, somewhere may not always be watching you but, it is always a good idea to conduct yourself in a consistent and respectful manner as if they were. I am not talking about being fake or putting on an act. You have to be authentic, but you also have to be mindful.