The Deli Lessons

Where do you get your lunch?

Mo, the proprietor of the sublime Sozo Sushi in Ft. Lauderdale, wants to know.

We run down the street to Doris’ Market in Hollywood, I answer. They have a $5.00 lunch special. Sandwich, chips, and a soda. 

Doris’ is your classic old Italian market, less than a mile from my firm’s office, right on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, Florida.

Yes, there really is a Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.

Lunch rush at Doris’ Market means you pull a number and wait your turn.

Behind the counter, Gilda and Frank and Doreen and Freddie and a whole slew of others hustle to sell deli meats and make the lunch orders while a crowd eagerly waits.

As I watch the numbers tick down toward mine, I think to myself I hope I get Gilda, I hope I get Frank.

Everyone behind the counter makes a fine sandwich.

But I like Gilda. I like Frank.

Truth is, I don’t know Gilda or Frank.

What I like is Gilda and Frank’s energy.

I am not talking about good customer service here. I am talking energy.

The I-am-happy-to-be-alive-and-here-right-now energy. The I-am-delighted-to-engage-with-you energy. The dammit-let-me-enjoy-this-moment energy.

The I-may-be-having-a-rotten-day-but-I-will-choose-to-fake-it-for-you energy.

Ron, Senior VP at a big Fortune 500 company, and I have a chat about energy. Like many seasoned executives that I coach, Ron longs to be a more inspirational leader.

There are people that give energy and there are people that take energy, Ron explains. I want to be the leader who gives energy.

And Ron shares a boss-who-inspired-me story.

I used to work for a guy named Larry. When Larry went on a business trip or took  a vacation, we missed him. We were happy when Larry came back. I want to be the guy they miss. I want to be the guy they are happy to see back.

That’s a fine personal benchmark.

Are you the Gilda or Frank or Larry they miss?

I don’t know Larry. But I am sure the benchmark has little to do with skill or competence. The benchmark is about personal energy.

The I-am-happy-to-be-alive-and-here-right-now energy. The dammit-let-me-enjoy-this-moment energy.

In the middle of a deadline-driven day, in the face of information overload and too many people clamoring for your attention, do you know how to drop into this energy?

That’s where it begins. At the deli counter. In the C-suite.

And it’s a choice.

Keep track of your personal energy this week. In the midst of a meeting or an informal conversation, ask yourself: In this moment, with this person, am I giving energy or am I taking it?

In case of doubt, drop into your I-am-happy-to-be-alive-and-here-right-now energy.

It’s a choice. It works every time.

You will be the one they miss.