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What I learned from the parking attendant

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the impact that our words and behaviours have on the people around us. So, I have decided to run an experiment. It’s based on the concept, “What goes around comes around”, otherwise known as the law of cause and effect.

My experiment is to be kind, warm and friendly in every interaction that I have with strangers. My goal is to see each one of them not as an employee, a cashier, a server or a mechanic, but as a human being. My goal is to connect with each stranger person to person. I have to say, it has been so interesting to watch what unfolds.

My favorite story concerns the parking attendant at a downtown lot. This lot is across the street from one of my clients. I have been parking in this lot once a month since February. In the past, I smile at the attendant and say thank you. He forces a smile back and goes back to his small “office” in a corner of the lot. But I have never spoken to him, human to human. So, last week, while in “experiment” mode, I struck up a conversation with him. I chose a topic that I thought he’d be familiar with – cars! I asked him what his favorite car was, we then chatted about a new condo being developed in the area. I then asked him how he was enjoying his summer. We had a lovely chat. As I said good-bye, he ran over to my car. “Miss, there is a long piece of rubber hanging down from your door,” he said. He then got down on the ground, lay on his back in the dusty parking lot, and with his bare hands, pounded the rubber back in place for me. I was amazed!

While this may seem like a small thing, to me it was a huge thing. I have seen this person 5 times before and never interacted with him. But this time, my kindness and respect for him, triggered him to be kind and respectful towards me. WOW! Cause and effect in action.

How is this story relevant for leaders? I have been saying for decades that as a leader, you set the tone. Your words, actions and behaviours have a profound effect on the people around you. So, I have distilled my learnings from the parking-lot attendant into three practical, action steps for you. Here are the three things you can do to use the notion of “cause and effect” to be a more impactful leader:

  1. Choose a leadership “mantra” that supports the tone you want to set on your team, for example:
    • I am a leader who treats everyone with respect
    • I am a leader who demonstrates kindness at all times
    • I am a leader who is fair and just etc.
  2. Write this “mantra” down and post it in a place that you can see daily
  3. Consciously choose behaviours that support your “mantra” in order to have a positive effect on the people around you

For the month of September, my challenge for you is to run your own experiment. Decide what your leadership mantra will be. Then start implementing it consistently. Watch what happens. Notice the response that the people around have to your behaviour. Some will respond positively right away. Others will not. Don’t judge their reaction. Rather, notice how you feel when you start living and leading in a way that makes you feel connected with your values. And…let me know how your experiment goes. I can’t wait to hear all about it.


Vanessa Judelman

Vanessa Judelman is an author, coach, and sought-after leadership expert. Over the past 20 years, she has created a proven formula to develop results-oriented leaders who feel empowered and confident in their job. Vanessa is the author of Mastering Leadership: What It Takes to Lead in Today’s Fast-Paced World. Order your copy here.

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