Recently my daughter was in the hospital for some medical tests. She had an early morning test scheduled, so we got to the waiting area and began the process of checking in, filling out forms and answering questions. We have become used to it over the past several months. We know the system now.
This particular test was done by a doctor, so after getting prepped and in the room the doctor came in. Doctors are an interesting lot. I enjoy watching their mannerisms, their speech, how they manage the room, etc. We had a great one this day. He came in and immediately put us all at ease. He had a big smile, made eye contact with everyone, introduced himself and told funny stories.
We were at a university/teaching hospital; our doctor was accompanied by another more junior doctor and a resident, which is often the case. There were also two nurses in the room. And me! The test took about 30 minutes, and as it was wrapping up they had my daughter lay flat while they made sure all the materials and supplies were properly put away. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the room, our doctor picked up a blanket and unfolded it. He carefully and purposely placed it over my daughter, smiled at her, tucked her in and asked her how she was doing. It seems so simple to say it now, but it was such a powerful act of service, an act of kindness.
I have observed thousands of people throughout my career and I often see people as they advance in their profession become less personally involved with direct customer care. For some reason people think that when they get promoted they are supposed to begin to delegate that stuff. In fact, having a big title and a lot of staff requires that you learn how to delegate. But that does not mean that you stop being involved. This doctor's example may have been the best I have ever seen. He did not wait for the nurse, the resident or the junior doctor to act. He actually picked the highest order task in the room, care for the patient, over anything else. I am sure he had other people waiting for him. He could have smiled and walked out of the room and we still would have been very happy. But he went above and beyond and handled that blanket himself. In a moment of stress for my daughter and me, he put us at ease.
Handling the blanket yourself is not about charm or personality. The fact that this particular doctor was outgoing, funny, empathetic and charming has nothing to do with how to apply this concept. The concept is simply doing a basic act of kindness with sincerity. That little extra step of personal service does not need to be delivered with a quick wit. It can be done without saying anything.
You may not have direct contact with your customers. You may be in engineering, accounting, infrastructure, facilities or HR. Wherever you are, your simple acts of service create an outsized ring of goodness over whatever it is that you are doing. Do not wait for others to do it. Do not be concerned with job descriptions and who does what. Just do it yourself. Pick up that paper, clean up that spill or tuck in that patient.
Handle the blanket yourself. There may be others in the room or on the project with you, but that does not mean you have to wait for them to act. Look around the room or around the project and see what little touch needs to be done. Pick it up. Unfold it with care. Don't just hand it to the customer. Don't look at your phone, don't worry about your next appointment, don't worry about the costs, the contracts, the rules, the anything. Just do like this doctor did and tuck that customer in. You may not think they are watching, but they are.