Good teammates listen with their ears and their eyes—meaning they maintain direct eye contact with the speaker while providing emotional feedback through facial contortions in the area around their eyes. I had an experience with a grocery store employee named Chris that reminded me of the significant role our eyes play in effective communication.

I was at the store on a busy Saturday morning. The checkout lines were longer than normal, so I had an opportunity to observe Chris bag the groceries of several customers in front me. I was impressed with her exceptional courtesy. Chris’s store is known for offering superior customer service, but her welcoming demeanor was extraordinary by even their standards.

When it came my turn to check out, Chris greeted me with the same warm sincerity. Although she was wearing a face mask, I could tell Chris was smiling. I could see it in her eyes. For those working in service industries, masks can be inhibitors to quality interactions with customers. But Chris proved that does not have to be the case.

Chris’s courtesy extended beyond the store’s customers. A teenager working the cash register was obviously new to his job. He wasn’t sure how to enter one of my items and asked Chris for help. She politely, and patiently, provided him with the necessary instructions. Her eyes smiled the entire time. Chris’s attitude was contagious.

I pushed my cart towards the parking lot and left the store in a good mood. Chris was a big reason for my happiness. As I unloaded the groceries into our car, I recounted my experience with Chris to my wife. After hearing the story, my wife suggested that Chris was “blog-worthy”—a term of reverence in our world.

I agreed. Chris was indeed Teammate Tuesday blog-worthy in the same way that good teammates like Darnell the Mover, Amy the Balloon Lady, and Caroline the Compassionate were. So I headed back into the grocery store to talk to Chris and snap a quick photo.

She graciously accepted my compliments but wanted to get her manager’s permission before taking a photo. I thought: Typical good teammate. Thinking of her team first.

I followed Chris to her manager’s office, expecting permission to be a mere formality. But that’s not what happened. Chris knocked on the manager’s door and peered into his office. I couldn’t hear their conversation, but I could read her eyes well enough to know that something was amiss. Her smile faded.

A few moments later, the manager emerged from the office. He too was wearing a mask, only his eyes weren’t smiling. His eyes communicated annoyance. I got the impression that I was inconveniencing him and he didn’t appreciate the interruption. His first words to me were, “What is it that you want?”

I reiterated my praise of Chris and told him I’d like to write an article about her extraordinary service. Very bluntly, he told me that taking a photo would be against company policy. I was disappointed with his response but thanked him for his time and left the store.

I didn’t feel the same way about this business when I left this time, however.

I expected to be writing a feature about quality customer service and how good teammates possess the ability to smile, even when they are wearing a mask. My interactions with Chris make for an inspiring good teammate anecdote. But my interactions with Chris’ manager make for an important good teammate lesson.

Good teammates accept compliments with gratitude and convey rejection with tact.

Chris’s manager could have responded: “Ahh! Thank you so much. We think highly of Chris too. We’re lucky to have her. I’m so sorry, but unfortunately our company policy doesn’t allow photography without approval from our corporate headquarters. I appreciate your compliments and hope you understand.”

And he could have said it all with smiling eyes. Had he chosen that alternative approach, I most assuredly would have been more understanding.

I’ve deliberately omitted the name of the grocery store from this story. I continue to respect their business and don’t plan to allow a negative interaction with one employee to taint my assessment. I’ve also deliberately included Chris’s name in this story because a positive interaction with even one employee—who’s a good teammate—should be recognized.

This story is a reminder of how impactful one individual can be on a team’s reputation. The beauty is that we all get to choose which individual we want to be.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is the founder and CEO of the Good Teammate Factory. He is a college basketball coach turned author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.


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