Sunday, March 16, 2014

Stay on Task But Don't Lose Sight of the Mission

There is an old expression that goes you can't see the forest for the trees.

I was reminded of that the other day as I waited patiently behind a waitress who was diligently refilling the large coffee urn in the lobby of the hotel where I was staying.

I have been traveling quite a bit this year and stay in a variety of different hotels. Some are major chains like Marriott, Hilton, Westin, and Hyatt. Others are the "suites" such as Double Tree, while still others are independent hotels.

At this particular independent, the restaurant off the lobby offers full waitress service. Breakfast is included as part of the daily room rate. The usual fare can be found on the menu: pancakes, french toast, eggs and so on. But the deal includes a self-serve buffet, too. In the lobby, there is a coffee station where, after breakfast, I like to grab a cup of coffee to take with me on the ride to the office.

Dedicated to good customer service, this waitress was very carefully pouring in several pots of recently brewed coffee to make sure the urn was full. Her mission was to ensure customers could always fill their cups with fresh, hot coffee. That meant, of course, that she had to check the urn from time to time and, when necessary, fill it up.

She was concentrating so hard on her immediate task, filling the urn without making a mess, that she failed to notice anyone (like me) waiting to get a cup. She wasn't doing anything wrong, but she had become so focused on her immediate task that she lost sight of the overall mission; delivering coffee to her customers.

So it often goes in business that we get so caught up in the immediate tasks at hand we lose sight of the larger picture. Had my friendly waitress kept the overall mission in sight she might have paused for a moment to fill my cup with some of that lovely fresh coffee in the pot she held, allowing me to be on my way, and her to complete her task.

In my elementary school we were frequently reminded not to look down at our feet when we walked. While you could see where you were stepping, you might not know where you were going. It is good practice to lift your head and take in the big picture from time to time.

It will also keep you from walking into a telephone pole.

Captain Joe

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