My family and I took a little weekend trip recently up to Stone Mountain Park, outside Atlanta. The entire place was festooned in Christmas lighting, there was a charming holiday parade, a fun time had by all.
It was getting late, we were tired and ready to get back to our free hotel wifi, but decided to catch a Christmas themed musical review as a last activity before leaving. We stood in line outside what amounted to a white quonset hut, then plopped down in black folding chairs to hear some carols.
Now, I must admit I wasn’t expecting much. Don’t get me wrong, Stone Mountain Park is a lovely place and totally worth the trip if you are in the area. But it’s not Disney World, if you know what I mean. I thought we would enjoy a quaint, if slightly cheesy, little-better-than-amateur stage show.
No, the setting wasn’t Vegas (or even Branson), but the performances were sensational. Absolutely magnificent. The dancing was spot on, the singing superb. Professional quality all the way. My wife, daughter and I sat in the back of that makeshift hut marvelling, mouths agog at what we were seeing.
And that’s when it hit me. These performers, other than completely entertaining me, were exemplifying some great lessons about life generally, and business specifically. This is a business blog, so here are the business lessons I learned from a troupe of musical theater performers:
1) It’s okay to play a role.
General wisdom is to be yourself at all times, and I largely agree. But what that usually means is you should get to act however you want, whenever you want. In the Social Media generation, it is all too common for people to think they can express their feelings and desires whenever the mood hits them.
But that is not the real world. In business, you have a role to play, and that is okay. To be frank, your customers should not need to care about your personal life or your bad day or your disastrous latest hair do. They have come to you with money in hand to get something they want. You should be a pro, and give it to them like a pro.
Those delightful performers might have just had a bad day. They might have been sick. Their cat might have the mange, whatever. But that is not what I saw. I saw pros doing professional level work.
This does not mean you should be fake. You should be genuinely passionate about your work, not a robotic phony. But just remember, as Elvis once sang (and some English playwright might have written), “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” Play the role of a passionate, competent, grown up business person.
2) Be a big league player, even if you’re on the farm team.
Like I said, this was not the world’s biggest or most prestigious venue, but those young performer were selling that show. You would have thought they had the lead in Wicked on Broadway. The were models of enthusiasm, expertise and accomplished talent, and it was a joy to watch.
If you aren’t where you want to be right now in business, don’t act like it. If your business is not as big or influential as you would like it or you are not in the city you want to be in, or if your industry bores you, never let it show to your customers. It is not their fault you are not where you want to be. You can always move to another city or transition to another industry, but while you are where you are, do it right.
You may not be Steve Jobs. You may not be Richard Branson. You may not even be a Googler, but so what? Come to work every day like a big leaguer, do your work like a big leaguer, and one day you might actually be a big leaguer.
3) Your customers do not do this every day.
I don’t know how many times those young people had performed that show. At least dozens, maybe hundreds. But guess what? It was my first time seeing it. And their professionalism made it seem like it was their first time as well. They smiled and danced and sang with gusto; if they were tired of the same ‘ol songs and routines, I certainly could not tell.
In business, you are going to be pitching the same products, services or ideas over and over and over again. It’s just the nature of work. However, never forget that your customers do not do what you do every day. They do not know what you know. They have not done the same thing a thousand times like you have. You should appear as excited about your business with the thousandth customer as you were with the first.
I walked into that quonset hut expecting a hokey show. I walked out with a fresh reminder that excellence is all around us, and should be celebrated.
Do you have a story about someone who is just darn good at their job? Tell us!
Thanks for reading.