I'm a major culprit for eavesdropping at coffee shops if I'm ever working outside of the office. One particular day, as I was cranking out emails and working through a technical document, I was witness to an interview at the local Dunkin Doughnuts. This day I was also forgetful and did not bring headphones to block out everything or focus past the conversation taking place next to me. Prior to the interview, I noticed the interviewee walk in and was completely unaware that the twenty-something, in athletic pants and an obviously worn white t-shirt, was there for any sort of official business - much less an interview. The female went to the counter and let a junior employee know that she was arriving for an interview and sat down two tables over without ordering anything (come to find out later … she didn't like coffee).
Before the interview, I think it's important to note that the manager at this Dunkin Doughnuts is always there and was at least 5-6 months pregnant at the time. The workforce she manages varies from local high school students to middle-aged men and women with likely two or three jobs. The racial and economic ratios directly reflect the community around it - which is one of the factors I like about this particular store. In addition to the challenge of managing across multiple people groups, there can be a higher level of turnover to combat, and a constant training regimen to maintain. This environment can lend itself to many missed cues, incorrect orders, and the occasional long wait time.
Despite all of this, the staff there are confident - not pompous. Every employee seems to be in an ever-state of encouragement, and each individual takes ownership in training and leading those they are working with. For every messed up drink and dropped latte, there seems to be an opportunity for coaching. I never understood where that aura came from until I witnessed THAT interview on THAT day.
The manager sat down and tried to get comfortable for 10-15 seconds and asks for all of the necessary paperwork such as resume, application, copy of ID's - the normal stuff. This is where things start to go wrong; the applicant did not have two forms of ID, and, in fact, didn't have a driver's license nor a car to drive to and from work. At this point, this manager has multiple justifications to end the interview: the applicant doesn't like coffee, doesn't have a dependable mode of transportation or legal means of driving herself, is dressed for a date with Netflix, and doesn't have the appropriate paperwork. Yet, she doesn't end it. She does the opposite.
The manager presses on and asks the applicant how she might be able to get to work and provides some suggestions when she stalls out. She provides examples of how other employees are accommodated for having specific transportation issues or other hindrances for getting to work and encourages her to explore specific options that she was previously unaware of. The manager also asks her about her previous work and pulls out multiple positives about each instance of experience because the individual was having a hard time selling herself. At about the 30 minute mark, they start discussing the paperwork, and the manager takes the time to instruct the applicant on how to get a social security card replacement and get a copy of her birth certificate - which further explains the background of this individual, to not have either document or knowledge of how to obtain them.
The interview eventually ends and the manager thanks the woman for her time… HER TIME, and then she encourages her to come back when she gets everything in order. I have no knowledge of what happened to that lady or if she applied again or not; however, the importance of this whole exchange is that it happened. The romantic in me, of course, hopes that this person was able to work through all of the obstacles before her and that she is a manager of her own Dunkin Donuts by now… AND loves coffee. Though it may be unlikely and the manager may have knew it was unlikely, this leader took the time to pour herself out anyway. The reason I want to highlight this experience is purely to showcase how one leader makes a difference in people's lives.
At a minimum, this woman left with a better trajectory than when she walked in, and the more people that work at that Dunkin Donuts or interview there will be imparted with the same. Which just might subtly change the community within which it resides. It could be a touch of idealism, but leaders (not just by title) can and should take the time to coach and encourage the individuals that they interact with. Metrics and numbers will eventually be met when everyone in your organization is mentoring and bettering those around them, and growing themselves as a product of this behavior.
Since this day, the manager now has a beautiful baby girl. What I'm hopeful for is this child will grow up knowing the full capacity a person has to impact the ones around them. A narrative that is important going into a new year and a new national leadership.
This video runs parallel to the concept and worth a quick 12 minute break during your time off this holiday season.