Be Like The South African Waiter: Remember The Value Of Service

I love dining on cruise ships. It is one of the best aspects of a cruise. One particular dining experience stands out to me from a cruise my family took on Royal Caribbean Liberty. This experience stands out as much for the transformation I saw the staff go through as for the actual dining itself.

In our dining room we had a headwaiter, a waiter, and a waiter’s assistant, none of whom spoke English as a first language. The headwaiter was from South Africa, the waiter from Chile, and the assistant from Peru. Some of the conversations were very interesting; especially once you throw in my “hearing challenged” father-in-law.

The Issue

My family had trouble with the assistant waiter, whose primary responsibilities consisted of serving drinks and bread. He was very slow and sometimes would act as if he heard our requests but didn’t follow through. It seemed like some things were getting lost in translation. We weren’t sure if he didn’t care or if he really didn’t understand what we were saying. Regardless, this situation became very frustrating.

The Solution

The second night our South African headwaiter asked if the service was good. She was sincerely asking too, it wasn’t the pat “I have to ask this so I’m going to” kind of question, she really wanted to know. We let her know the problems we were having. She explained to us that the assistant was new and the staff sometimes had trouble communicating with the Peruvian employees, a lot gets lost in translation. She wasn’t overly apologetic; she simply expressed her gratitude for our feedback and said it would be taken care of. From that point on, we had fantastic service. The service was already out of this world, but this simple conversation made it even better. The assistant waiter never appeared surly or angry, we never would have known if anybody had spoken with him about our complaint.

The Valuable Lesson

“Be Like a South African Waiter,” means to always have an attitude of service. Always have the mindset of “How can I help.” As common a principle as this is, it is far too often overlooked or taken for granted.   Our South African waiter was of service to us, the customers, and the assistant waiter, her employee. She wasn’t simply sucking up to my family with a false “the customer is always right” kind of attitude. She sincerely wanted to help everyone involved. As a result of her attitude, everyone was helped.

Maintaining a sincere attitude of service is valuable in all relationships. One of the quickest and most effective ways to improve self-perception is to find ways to help others. Make it a point to find a way to be of service to someone every day. It isn’t a difficult or daunting task. Some examples include:

  • putting away your grocery cart
  • emptying the dishwasher
  • offering to help clean after a party, meeting, or gathering

The more you can be like a South African waiter, the better you will feel about yourself. As a result your relationships will improve, even those that are already good.

Those Who Serve Are Responsible

Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good.  In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.”  ~Anthony Robbins

It is difficult to realize that no one else is, or can be, responsible for your happiness. Although you may convince yourself that it is impossible to feel complete without the link to specific individuals, it is this system of beliefs that will limit you from reaching your potential.

You always have something to give.  Your perceptions, experiences, and wisdom carry the power and insight to change the world.  When you share your knowledge with others, the bond you create is lasting.  It is the person who sits and waits to be served who is always left disappointed and unfulfilled.

Here are some simple steps you can use to realize your power and positively change your relationships (no matter how down on yourself you may be):

  • Write down your area of expertise. (If there is more than one, great! If you can’t think of one, write down the first thing that comes to mind.)
  • Write down someone you know who could benefit from your knowledge. (If not one individual, perhaps a group you could help.)
  • Commit to a time and develop a plan as to how you will sit down and share with this person (or group.)

Keep this really simple.  Chances are, the person you could help the most is around you all of the time.  Remember it is about you giving. Don’t concern yourself with how you are received; it is none of your business what others think of you.  Build your relationships on your own terms. Begin with an attitude of service and you will immediately feel better about yourself and the gifts you came to share.

Commitment is the Key


Elena found herself in an extremely difficult situation. After making the decision to change the dynamic of a relationship with a long-term supplier, she realized it would be a tough sell. Elena wanted to alter the connection because she had noticed a degree of mistrust in her dealings with the supplier, and she thought she knew why.
Elena had completed “Relationships for the Intimately Challenged” and decided to seek consultation from me in order to improve her business relationships. Particularly interested in examining relationships, Elena had discovered when interactions are viewed as 50/50 someone is always in a state of reaction and someone is always keeping score.
“It is impossible to maintain a true attitude of trust and service if both parties view the relationship as 50/50,” Elena explained, adding “I knew this supplier viewed us with a degree of paranoia. From their perspective, they believed if a problem ever arose, we would simply take their expertise and find a cheaper alternative to rectify the problem.”
Because Elena was aware of the supplier’s fears, she came up with a simple plan.
“I knew that I would need to be very clear in the explanation of my company’s commitment to their service,” Elena said. “I worked very close with the supplier to create some shared objectives, which I knew would illustrate that we were partners and show my 100 percent commitment to our shared success.”
This relationship included several components, such as equipment, processes and maintenance. Several people were involved. However, my client knew if the department heads were on the same page and dedicated, they would be able to work together.
The first time there was a major problem – an equipment breakdown – these new commitments were put to the test. The knee-jerk reaction was to start finger pointing and determine who was to blame. Was it the supplier’s responsibility for providing faulty equipment or systems? Was it my client’s company’s fault as a result of poor maintenance?
Of course it was important to figure out where the problem started, but both sides realized that in order to have a true partnership they must work together to identify the problem and develop a solution.
“The initial conversations were a bit contentious,” Elena said. “But, because I was aware of the supplier’s fears, I was able to reiterate my commitment to our relationship. I realized it was a little difficult for the supplier to completely buy what I was saying, so I put it in writing and sent it to him.”
Elena believed it was important to shift the nature of the relationship and create a system of accountability. As a result of her clear assurance, the supplier was able to relax. But the supplier’s change didn’t stop there.
“After receiving my written explanation, the supplier was a little blown away,” Elena explained.
“They were so impressed that they agreed to replace the equipment at a reduced cost and provide additional support. I wasn’t necessarily seeking this kind of solution, but I certainly took it!” she continued.
This story illustrates the importance of viewing any relationship as a commitment. Although Elena would have been disappointed had the partnership dissolved, she would be able to walk away knowing she did everything in her power to make it a success. Because of Elena’s commitment, the supplier was able to build trust, which made the supplier willing to go the extra mile to provide quality service.
Always be aware of your level of commitment in a relationship. When you focus on your value, commitment and strength, you will create an atmosphere of trust and mutuality. In the end, everyone is a success.

Photo credit: Eschipul via:Flickr

It Begins With You

“Love life and life will love you back. Love people and they will love you back.” ~Arthur Rubinstein

Are you in a lot of conflict right now? Does it seem like you’re swimming against the current?Do you feel resistance to your dreams and desires?

There are times when we all feel this way. To me these feelings are indicators of a lack of compassion and connection. When you are compassionate, there is a flow to life. Even if things aren’t going exactly the way you believe it should, you are able to find acceptance. We spend so much time focused on the performance and behavior of others that we forget a better world starts with me.

A sense of connection is vital to success. In order to connect with people we must find common ground on which to relate. When the common ground is discovered as a result of compassion the relationship has a much better chance to flourish. Some simple ways to remain aware of your level of compassion are:

  • Do you look for similarities or differences between you and others?
  • Are you able to find opportunities to allow your experiences to benefit people with whom you come in contact?
  • How often do you follow inspirations to perform acts of service?

There is no better time to love than right now. Circumstances and people respond to the energy generated by you. Pay attention, be present, and take advantage of the opportunities to make your world a better place.

Success in Business PartIII: The Idea is Service

2883973015_613bed957dRegardless of the business you are in, success is predicated on the service you are able to provide. In most businesses there are so many options available to potential clients or customers, it can be difficult to determine what will make your business stand apart. Often, businesses will succumb to the newest fads and revert to reactionary change without thinking about the most critical ingredient in a company’s success, its ability to provide valuable service.

A business relationship is a relationship. Whether it is between the company and its client, an employer and employee, a marketer and potential referral source, or any other business relationship, it is vital to make and nurture real connections. Rather than focusing on what’s trendy and new as far as business techniques, go with what is tried and true.

  • Focus on listening to the needs of your clients
  • Make sure your attitude in all facets of your business is “How can I help?”
  • Create an environment that is safe for your employees to act on their unique talents
  • Spend more time on building relationships than on creating “advantages.” With strong relationships, you already have the advantage

My company has been in business for sixteen years. I have seen many companies in my industry have to close their doors. What those who have closed share in common is their inability to keep relationships as their number one priority. There is a place for seminars on team building and leadership, we certainly have plenty, but it is far more important for people to remember that nothing replaces a sense of connection.

It is all about service.

Photo Credit: JayBeeClimbsTrees via

Walt Disney World and Relationships

Last night I arrived Walt Disney World to attend the National Speaker’s Association Winter Conference. I am extremely excited, as this is my first NSA conference and Walt Disney World is perhaps my favorite place in the world. 

Walt Disney World is a place built on the characteristics I consider to be critical building blocks to a happy and joyful life:

  • Fun is contagious. When someone, or something, is fun we want to participate. We are attracted. We forget about whatever problems we may currently have. Fun is critical to happy lives and happy relationships.
  • Service. At Walt Disney World I always feel taken care of. Sure, I’ve had problems here before but over all my experiences are always positive and the people strive to provide good service. Think about your relationships; are you of service?
  • Acceptance. Don’t you love being in situations in which you are not being judged? When you know you are accepted simply because of who you are? Again, think about your relationships. All of them; friends, family, spouses or romantic partners, clients, service providers, and any other relationship in your life. Those in which we practice acceptance are harmonious and positive, even when disagreements occur.

There are always ways to improve our lives and our relationships if we pay attention. One of the reasons I love coming to Disney World as much as I do is because I am reminded of what is really important in my life. I feel at my best when I am having fun, when I’m of service, and practicing acceptance.