I was listening to a podcast of Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft titled ‘ Microsoft’s Next Act’ in which he talks about empathy. “Innovation comes only when you are able to meet unmet, unarticulated needs—and this comes from a deep sense of empathy we all have. But you can’t go to work and, say, “turn on the empathy button. Your life’s experience will give you that passion and understanding for a particular customer, a particular use case.
I had resigned to a conclusion that empathy had become another corporate buzzword but Satya’s heartfelt words made me rethink and I soon learnt the true meaning of the word through a simple act of a front office executive in a hotel. Read on….
I was one of the guest speakers at the Rotary International district 3181 conference at Mangalore. I was put up at the upscale Goldfinch hotel. My talk was at 9 am and 8.30 I noticed a button on my jacket perilously swinging,about to snap off any moment.
I rushed down to the front office and explained my state to the charmingly petrified executive. She asked me to stay calm and called Housekeeping and I could sense the person on the other side wasn’t keen to come down just to sew a button. Noticing my reaction she once again assured me she’d take care and went up the stairs,got the thread and needle and started sewing the button.
I could faintly hear her male colleague asking her, “ why are YOU doing all this? Not our job!..” And she looked up and said “SIR HAS A MEETING AT 9!”
She handed over my jacket. I hurriedly yet profusely thanked and asked her name. SHRADDHA was her reply. I immediately asked her to convey my greetings to her parents for naming her aptly. Shraddha means dedication!
At the conference my topic was INFLUENCE WITHOUT AUTHORITY and I junked my prepared text to start with Shraddha’s example receiving a thunderous applause.
I had to rush back to Bangalore so I left for the airport straight after my talk. Last November I was at Mangalore again and checked into the same hotel and Shraddha saw me and gushed out, “Sir, around twenty Rotarians congratulated me the next day after you had mentioned my name in your talk. Not just that. I was awarded ‘Employee of the Month’ by the management. Not only that. My family and I were treated to an all-expenses-paid holiday at a resort in Goa. Thank you so much”.
I said I wasn’t at all surprised and wished her more glories to come. Please note if she had pleaded helplessness that day I couldn’t have complained because she had called Housekeeping and beyond that it wasn’t necessary for her to do what she did. But that solitary act taught me many valuable lessons on understanding customer needs and delighting them.
I speak about Shraddha in many of my talks and webinars always eliciting a WOW reaction. I guess your upbringing and your experiences in life have a major impact on how you treat others.
In these troubled times of Covid 19 with distressing news floating all over, it may help if we understand the pain others are going through and do whatever possible to alleviate the suffering.
And yes, “SIR HAS A MEETING AT 9” will resonate within me for a long time.