Flying home a couple of weeks ago, I was gazing out the window at the expanse of white clouds below the plane. We were almost ready to begin our descent and the pilot told us it was raining badly in Florida. But here we were still above the clouds and the sun was shining and the light was magnificent shining on them below. I drank it in knowing we were descending into the storm. Then I was struck by how odd a feeling it was to know that a miserable storm was happening below us at the same time the sun was shining so brightly up here.

As the plane started the landing process, I began to recall a conversation I had had earlier that day with a client. Carol was telling me that she needed to delay her plans to do multiple workshops as we had planned for this year.

Her business had been through a challenging time and for the time being they were reigning in spending until they got back on more stable ground. She felt sure the business would recover in the fall and they were looking forward to finding ways to continue to work together (even if was electronically) for a while until they could resume their usually robust training schedule.

Her attitude and her outlook were optimistic, at the very same time she was realistic. She was in the midst of the storm but she knew the sun was shining up there somewhere. She would wait for it to reappear, as she knew it would. I was impressed by her attitude and her resolve. It’s a hard thing to do to hold the “both/and” position, rather than the “either/or.”

Focusing on the storm would have put her into fear, but by focusing on the sun, she had high hopes for a recovery in the future and was looking forward to getting the project started with her team. When we hold fast to a vision of a brighter future, the obstacles in our path are overcome with relative ease. When we focus on the obstacle, that’s all we see and it’s easy for fear to creep in and immobilize us.

It set me off thinking. When we focus on what we can do in the moment, rather than what we might not be able to do in the future, we stay in our power. When we take the situation seriously, but ourselves lightly, the quicker, the stronger (and less stressed) we’ll be. This is a lesson I am still learning. And let me tell you I’m no “A” student in this subject. What a gift to be reminded of the very thing I need to learn myself.

It’s a tough world out there and it looks like it might get tougher before it gets better. It’s up to each and every one of us to maintain the power to make positive choices in the moment, so we can continue to provide positive experiences for our customers and ourselves. Even if they can’t do what we’d like them to do now, if we maintain a positive relationship with them, and continue to add value any way we can, they will be there for us when we come out the other side of the difficult time.

Make no mistake about it – we will all continue to be challenged in the future to be more effective, more creative, more productive and better at building and sustaining the customer relationships we have if we want to keep our businesses thriving. And that’s what it’s about, yes? At least that’s what we believe in and teach others.

Back to the plane… As we got closer and closer to the ground, a phrase I’ve heard before popped into my head. “Leave it better than you found it.” As I thought about that phrase, a question emerged. I couldn’t resist answering.

What can we do to leave this world a better place? What could we do in our everyday interactions with others that would leave them feeling better, more secure, more important, more welcome, more comfortable, more appreciated than they did before their interaction with us?

Here are some of things that popped into my head.

We can be more understanding.
We can extend a kind word.
We can give heartfelt thanks.
We can offer a warm welcome.
We can give genuine compassion.
We can listen from the heart.
We can go out of our way.
We can dig a little deeper for a solution.
We can share a big smile.
We can deliver a hearty laugh.
We can try a little harder.
We can pitch in wholeheartedly.
We can respond quicker.
We can reach out and touch.

Hey – look at that – they’re all free! How’s that for low cost customer loyalty? Every customer, you included, has both business and personal needs. If you have the right product or service and it meets the customer’s specifications and it’s a fair price you’ll get the business. But unless you take care of the customer’s personal needs – the emotional needs that are about needing to feel welcome and comfortable, secure and safe, confident and competent, important and even sometimes special – you won’t keep that customer for very long.

Leave it better than you found it.


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