Yes, efficiency. And, thoughtfulness.
How to master the art of doing work quickly and doing it well.
Confession: I’m scared of TSA employees in the security line at airports. Sometimes they snap at me, now and then I don’t know where to go and they throw glares in my direction, and they rarely smile. I get it; it’s not their job to make me feel happy and welcome at the airport. One day on a flight out of Indianapolis, I met a TSA employee who chose to make it his job anyway.
It was one of those rare days where I didn’t have an early morning flight, so the airport was busy. And I mean BUSY. As I joined the growing line waiting for security, I mentally prepared myself to meet a cranky (and reasonably so) TSA worker who would bark at me to show my boarding pass and pull out my driver’s license faster than humanly possible. As I got closer to the front of the line, I noticed something strange about the man behind the security booth. Every time he scanned a driver’s license, he would promptly hand it back and say “have a good day, Mr. Smith,” or “safe travels, Ms. Grant,” calling each traveler by name.
Do you ever feel like you’re too busy to be thoughtful? I sure do. If I have a lot of emails to send, I likely won’t take the time to include a nice note along with the necessary information, even if it’s just to say “have a great day!” When I’m walking through a busy convention hall on the way backstage to get ready for a keynote, I’ll tell myself I don’t have time to even smile at the people I pass on the way. When I’m sorting cattle with my sister back home on the farm, I’m so worried about being efficient that I snap at her too quickly, too sharply.
It is sometimes true that the most thoughtful thing to do is to be efficient. If I don’t respond to emails on time because I’m writing out some detailed complementary message to each person, that doesn’t help them with their job. If my sister and I have to start over when we’re sorting out a specific calf from the herd because I asked her politely to make sure he didn’t slip through the gap by the water tank, that’s not going to make her life any better, either. What if there was a way to maintain that efficiency while also acknowledging each other’s humanity? TSA man figured it out.
See, the crazy thing was that not only was he the most thoughtful airport security guy I’d ever seen, he was also quite possibly the fastest. He had people through the security gate faster than passengers’ seat belts come unclicked when the seatbelt light turns off. He was doing his job quickly, he was doing it well, and he made every single traveler feel valued because someone said their name.
Thoughtfulness isn’t an excuse to slack off on our jobs; efficiency isn’t an excuse to be rude. There are small, efficient ways to show we care about others. Using someone’s name is an easy one. If we don’t have time to stop and chat, simply explaining that we’d love to talk but we can’t do it right now means more than being short with people. Maybe the person ahead of us in the line at the grocery store is taking what feels like forever to load their bags into their cart, so we can speed up the process and be kind by helping them out instead of complaining. If the TSA security man’s kind “enjoy your flight, Miss Hoffman” still echoes in my mind, how much more would it mean to the people in your life if you also choose thoughtfulness in efficiency?
What’s one thoughtful action you’ll take this week? Share your ideas in the comments or on social media by tagging @miriamrosah and @nffaevp and using the hashtags #EmbracingComplexity and #FFA21.