Being Different Or Making A Difference; There Is A Difference

04.08.13 | Posted in Guest Blog

Guest blogger – John S. Arnold

Today’s guest blogger is a very close friend of mine.  John gets to take a lot of credit for guiding me into the executive coaching ranks after my retirement from TALX Corporation in 2008. He has been a top, international executive coach for over 15 years and besides his personal clients, he does coaching and consulting work with the Ken Blanchard organization. Take it away John!

Have you ever had someone tell you they are simply different and expect you to “get it”? They cannot understand why you do not “get them” at all. Whether it is a friend, co-worker or partner you are expected to simply accept their quirks. While many of us certainly understand this personality trait, there is a big difference between being different and making a difference. When you think about those people who have made a difference in your life, their impact is, more often than not, life changing. Compare that to people who have focused on being different because it suits their own agenda. They put way too much energy into being different, standing out to just stand out, possibly because they need the attention. How did that experience feel for you?

The wonderful people in your company who, instead, make a difference are a positive influence on their coworkers and your customers. They leave a lasting,  upbeat impression that will almost always lead to repeat business or sales as well as having a positive impact on morale and the bottom line.

On a recent flight out of a local airport, two passengers became ill and had to leave the plane. The first thing several of us thought was “are we going to be quarantined?” I guess we could have thought “I really hope those folks are ok,” but that’s another discussion. Because we sat at the gate for a while, we needed more fuel, and the weather in Jacksonville had turned a bit ugly. In the end, we were delayed by almost two hours.

As I spoke with the flight attendant about our morning, she was extremely pleasant in light of what had transpired. I asked her if I could send an email or note complimenting her on the way she handled everything and simply thank her for making a difference for me that morning. She smiled, handed me a piece of paper with the information I needed and we were off. Only two hours late for the first meeting with a prospect, and — thanks in part to her positive attitude — I simply knew everything would be ok. When is the last time you told someone she did a great job for you or that you really appreciated the service you received? It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to let someone know they made a difference in the experience you just had. Quite possibly, the service or experience will be even better for the people who will deal with that person after your compliments.

The bottom line for me that day was I had a great morning and a great client meeting. In the face of what could have been a negative distraction, one person, very early in the morning, decided to make a difference, to be pleasant, helpful and positive.

It made all the difference for me.

John S. Arnold

Partner – The Human Capital Group


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13 Responses to “Being Different Or Making A Difference; There Is A Difference”

  1. Elizabeth Spradley says:

    Well said! Our quest is to make the difference positive. Someone is always on the receiving side. Thanks for sharing!

    • echaffin says:

      Elizabeth, thank you for your comments. The application for leaders is – “You are always leading. You are always communicating a message. Make sure you know what that message is. And, make sure it’s empowering those that you’re leading”

  2. Silvia Evans says:

    John Arnold, gives the readers a glimpse into his secret formula for success. Last year John motivated me to successfully jump start my goal of passing the CPA exam… at age 51… talk about making a difference! An upbeat, truly caring person, he gets the job done without letting life’s obstacles trip him up. Thanks for today’s dose of inspiration and motivation!

  3. Mike Jaffe says:

    Great perspective John. We always have a choice – to be have a victim mindset or to have an empowered mindset. About 14 years ago I was doing a project for a large global bank and the most interesting research that came out of it was regarding small business owners and their interactions in the branch. We discovered that it wasn’t the mistakes that caused dissatisfaction. It was how the company dealt with the mistakes and took care of the customers/clients afterwards. In fact, when a mistake was made and the branch ‘took care of’ their customer, it generated higher levels of customer loyalty and satisfaction than before the mistake was even made. And all it took was communications and thoughtfulness – something every person can provide.

  4. Skip Wilson says:

    Outstanding John !! Always try to be positive with everyone, every time !!

  5. Love this, John. We are usually quick to speak up to complain or point out mistakes but not to give a compliment, especially if the action is “expected” as part of a service. In that moment, that flight attendant probably thought “Wow, someone noticed. And wow, I did handle that situation quite calmly.” Whether it comes naturally easy for her to do that or it’s a skill that she needs to put effort into, she’ll definitely be encouraged to do more of it. We all win.

  6. Marilyn Brown says:

    I loved this article. I deal with people in the service industry all of the time. When you approach them with a pleasant attitude and a smile – it really changes up that experience. Recently, I thanked the cashier at Publix, using her first name. She looked at me with a surprised expression and said, “I’ve been working here for 8 months and you are the first customer to ever address me by my name”. The surprised look quickly turned into a warm smile – that little act (which we are all capable of and takes no effort) made her day! Thanks for keeping us on track!

  7. Ted Parsons says:

    Excellent John! Although it has been a long time since our paths have crossed, this reminds me of the time when they did and your positive and authentic leadership! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Barbara Roti says:

    Well said! Yes, it is so much easier to complain vs compliment – but as John so nicely said, it made all the difference to him in the world to have someone pleasant and up-beat.

    Really, what could anyone do anyway, so why complain and take out your frustrations on those who have no control over the situation. If you can not change the situation, just apologize and smile, it makes a huge difference to those who are upset. They can tell you genuinely care, and that makes a big difference – just knowing that someone heard you, and cares! Great job John. Let’s hear more from you!

  9. Jeffrey Keller says:

    John is right on. Approximately 6 years ago, I was flying back from West Palm Beach to Houston. I had been here visiting family and couldn’t fly back on my predetermined date because a hurricane had hit the SE Texas region. I was managing a large country club at the time, so needless to say I was incredibly worried about the state of the club, and thus had lost a lot of sleep over the days preceeding my delayed flight. Once the flight was up at cruising altitude, the Flight Attendant came by and asked what I’d like. I told that I’d like some black coffee. She poured some and then asked if I’d like some water as well. I said, “No thank you”. A little bit later, she came by again, picking up trash, and asked if I’d like some water. I said, “No thank you” again, and she continued with her duties. Towards the tail end of the flight, she passed by again and asked “Would you like some water?” I said, “No thank, but may I ask a question?” She acknowledged yes. I asked kindly and honestly, “Do I look dehydrated or ill?” She replied, “No, why?” I said, “Well, you’ve asked me 3 times if I’d like some water. I can see you’re busy, so I assumed there was some indication as to why you’d offer me water.” She smiled (I remember the smile) and said, “Oh, well every time I drink black coffee by itself, it makes me thirsty. You only asked for black coffee, so…” I smiled back, because this frankly made my day. I gave her my business card, and said, “If you ever lose the passion for being a Flight Attendant, call me. I run a private country club. I think you’d be great there.” She thanked me, said she loved doing what she did, and moved on with her final responsibilities. Coinsidently, I was under deadline to submit an article to Club Industry magazine that week. I chose to write about her and the experience I had on Continental Airlines, an airline at that time that was having a lot of struggles because of pilots, customer service, etc. I sent a copy of the article to the VP of HR at continental to recognize her. It was the least I could do for the experience she gave me.

    Oh, and by the way, 2 years later, she came to work for me at that country club as my Front End Restaurant Manager. So kindness without an agenda does work!

    • echaffin says:

      Jeffrey,another great story. Turns out airline stories of great service seem to be in the air. I had an experience yesterday that will turn into another blog along the same lines and it will be posted on Wednesday along with a picture of the 3 extraordinary flight attendants.

  10. Andreea says:

    You put a smile on my face while I was reading the article – Thank you for making me smile! Nowadays people are in rush and this issue does not let them see the beauty of some little aspects from our daily life! Being positive is a choice and it’s all about perspective. I’m an introverted person but after I read this article I feel that I have to challenge myself. From now on I want to find the courage to say thank you to every person that will make the difference for me.

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