Put that thing down!

This post goes with the value we call Ho‘ohanohano in Managing with Aloha; to conduct ourselves with dignity, honor and distinction. It’s a story leading to a New Year’s resolution I’m hoping more people will adopt.

I had a boss who was very anti-desk, and I learned a lot about the quality of attention from him. Attention isn’t just about getting into focus; it’s about hospitality, and always being ready to receive well.

His anti-desk feelings went beyond wanting ‘management by walking around’ from all of us, though that certainly was part of his coaching. They extended to the customer most of all.

I remember getting my first sense of how passionate he was about this in a construction design meeting. He wanted our builders to redo the counters of our spa’s reception desk so that all the registration computers would be dropped well below eye and shoulder levels: He insisted that arriving customers should never be greeted by the back of some computer terminal, and he simply wouldn’t listen to their cautions about the expense we’d incur destroying what they’d just built and doing it all over again. Nor did he care about the domino effect they described, and how the entire construction project might get delayed. He wanted it right, or not at all — he had a more critical domino effect in mind.

The urge for good design

It wasn’t about the time, the desk or the money.

— It was about them doing a worthy job, so that every job following theirs would be done well too.
— It was about the customer knowing they were Job One with us, and that no barrier would ever be tolerated between us.
— It was about every Spa employee knowing people always trumped systems and processes, no matter what. Not just the customer, but with each other too.

There are lots of ‘service desks’ who get this wrong. They made it about the desk and the money, or a process other than service. And the time? Well, they’ve been stuck in years of keeping it wrong and not even noticing it anymore.

By the way, another interesting thing about this story is that the construction specs were right. This wasn’t a last-minute change my boss sprung on them. The construction foreman had made a correction during the build because “nobody else does it this way” it must be wrong.”

But you know what’s worse to me? Smart phones, and the other screens we look at instead of talking story with the people surrounding us. For goodness sake, put that thing down. You don’t have to rebuild an entire reception desk, you just have to drop your arm and lift your eyes.

Put down the techie gadgets, lift your eyes from the screens, and pick up the dignity and quality of your days. To borrow from the jargon of the day, keep your IRL channel open, your “in real life.”


  1. Anne says

    Drop your arm/hand/put that cellphone down and look into my eyes…thank you Rosa…I am not a techie…I have a boring cellphone w/t all the gadgets. I let it ring (or hopefully I’ve remembered to turn it off) anytime I’m around others, especially if out w/ friends…It is SO annoying and hurtful when a cellphone is more important than the conversation going on between friends or in a store…

    I have one friend who I had traveled from California to Arizona to see (took 2 days of travel) and the entire time I was with her, her cellphone (Blackberry) was in her hand and she was checking her messages. What the heck? I felt so…unimportant. Kind of abandoned, everytime she would check it/answer it.

    And listening to other’s conversations in stores…ack!

    There’s very few places where customers seem more important than the computer or cash register between the customer and the clerk. It’s annoying when they ask you five times if you need help out to the car w/ your groceries when you already answered them the first time. And the second. Pay attention!!! Look at me! I’m why you have a job!

    OK, sorry, off the soapbox. I really resonated w/ this post, I guess!! :-/

    • Rosa Say says

      It’s a strange thing Anne; I think that even the worst offenders of the rudeness you describe feel the same way when they are “abandoned” (that was a good way of putting it), and yet they’ll forget all too quickly, and do it to others too.

      I think maybe we have to focus on that exciting discovery of what we might be missing as it happens in “real time.” For after all, our gadgets do save up everything else for our catch-up-when-alone time. I do have a smartphone, and my favorite apps on it are its camera and voice memo recorder for those joyful talking story moments with friends and family: I love using it as a UCT (ubiquitous capture tool; David Allen GTD jargon :)]