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  • Jacqueline Le Sueur

Be Careful, You Never Know Who Is Listening.

I was in a cafe in my local 'big' town earlier today. Late for lunch. I'd already been into four places where, after waiting for a few minutes at the head of the queue without any acknowledgement from the busy staff, I walked out. Frustrated I set off down the high street really not relishing a pre-packaged sandwich nor waiting the 30 minutes it would take me to get home. "Pasty", I thought. "Shouldn't eat wheat but needs must", I thought as I walked into a cafe that speacialises in these local delicacies.

With plethora of pasties to chose from I needed help. Since when do we have beef empanada ones and others filled with Thai chicken curry? The server was delightful. She described the various offerings with delight and an engaging smile. I took her recommendation, the beef empanada as it turned out. A Portuguese filling in a Cornish pasty. Now there's a global mish mash if ever there was one, made even more international in flavour by a flat white, that great Australian invention.

I chose a seat at a table by the window so I could people watch. It also happened to be close to the counter. As I ate my surprisingly delicious pasty and sipped my excellent coffee I could not help but listen to the conversation unfolding between my server-with-a-smile and a man who, it seemed, was her new boss. He called her 'Head Barista'; he called himself 'Regional Manager'. He was new in his job and was on site to 'train' the team. He spoke very loudly, so loudly he was impossible to ignore.

I won't bore you with the details of what ensued. Suffice to say that over the minutes that followed my server-with-a-smile wilted in the onslaught of her boss's one-way, 'do this, don't do that' approach. It appeared that he was there to train standards. Good move as standards form the foundation of consistent service excellence and provide the measurement by which to assess team performance and business success. In the wrong hands they are like a fire extinguisher sprayed at a fire. Miss Head Barista's body language changed; her shoulders dropped, her smile disappeared and her voice that had been lit with sunshine a while earlier become a quiet whisper.

I left thinking how dangerous training is in the wrong hands; how easy it is to lay waste to the service excellence that so many people deliver naturally. I was also reminded of how mindful we need to be when we are conducting on-the-job training in the workplace - be it a cafe or a spa or an office. We never know who might be listening nor how what they hear willl influence their future buying decisions.

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