Building on our humanity

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It was the typical morning rush at the coffee shop. Multiple lines in front of each cash register had people four deep in line. Some people tapped their feet and checked the time. Others, head bent over their phones, tried to make the best use of their wait – whether checking work emails or simply scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.

Despite the crowd, the team behind the counter was highly efficient. Orders were taken, coffee was poured, bagels were buttered, and people left to their jobs, caffeine cradled carefully in their hands.

It’s easy to see how quickly the situation could fall into chaos. The need to supply a variety of requests to a lot of people in a short period of time is always a recipe for disaster.

There are probably many reasons why the team worked well together – skills, experience, processes. But the one I noticed is probably given little credit.

Neatly printed under their name on each person’s tag was their hometown – cities from all over Canada and the world. It’s a simple thing, but one that shouldn’t be discounted. It’s a gentle reminder that this is a person. They are from somewhere. They have a past, and with that, a present and future.

A small gesture like this helps create stronger personal connections within the team itself – encouraging them to work through conflicts in a healthier fashion.

And it promotes more patience and humanity in customers. This is not a machine filling orders, this is someone like me.

Don’t discount the small areas where you can build social connections and empathy into your workplace. When the going gets tough, these will act as the foundation that keeps your team strong.