This week I took my car to Champion Honda for scheduled maintenance. I was looking forward to downtime, clearing my head, and reading a new book on employee engagement.
In the quiet and spacious lobby, I picked a seat and threw my nose into my book.
Soon, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an older woman walk in. She was thin and petite. She carried several bags. As she entered, a staff member gave the woman a hug. She dropped her belongings near mine and walked away.
I was uncomfortable the woman set up so close while twenty other seats open. (Yes, I counted.) But I was still determined to avoid conversation and read my book. The woman shuffled her feet as she paced the waiting room floor, back and forth, back and forth. She came uncomfortably close and walked away, only to return again.
Now and then, another staff member would come in, greet the woman, and exchanged genuine pleasantries. Employees even acknowledged the woman's latest knitting project. Unintentionally, I lifted my gaze and made eye contact. The woman, surprisingly kind looking, smiled, and I smiled back, quickly returning to my book.
When my husband arrived to give me a ride, we exchanged a quick hug and kiss. "We don't allow that in here," the woman teased. I joked that we promised to stop. She had been looking for an opportunity to chat and had found an open window.
The woman I saw at Honda and the respect the team members there showed her perfectly aligned with the principles in the latest book I am reading, Carrots and Sticks Don't Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT, by Paul L. Marciano.
As I reflect on my experience, I remain impressed with the respect the staff members at Champion Honda showed this woman. Clearly, she was there often and wanted company and conversation in addition to whatever else she was waiting for. But instead of being annoyed or curt, staff members were respectful. They further cultivated and developed the relationship they had with the woman.
Respect is a basic and primal craving. All of us need it. All of us want it. And though I started reading Carrots and Sticks to learn about employee engagement, I was thankful for the reminder that respect must be integrated, not only in the workplace, but in all other areas of life as well. Without respect, relationships crumble. Everything falls apart.
I do believe Aretha Franklin was on to something...