I was confronted with one of the most profound business lessons one afternoon at a mall diner in St. Louis. My instructor was the waitress, Ashley D. In fact, the lesson she revealed to me, albeit unwittingly, can be found in almost any problem in business, leadership, or personal interactions!
Along with Auntie Ann’s Pretzels, Orange Julius, and Sabarro, nothing says “mall food” or “food court” like a gyro. Wherever you are, if you are eating gyros, it is very likely you are in a mall. Even on a visit to Greece, when I did have gyros, I THOUGHT of being in a mall.
So, at The Diner of Mid Rivers Mall, with high hopes, I sat down on a counter stool and ordered a gyro. With fast and friendly service, my order was placed in front of me. I took a bite of the meat (what is that mystery meat in mall gyros anyway?), and my teeth slammed together as though I were trying to chew chocolate pudding, reminiscent of my first and last experience with kidney pie. The meat was cool, wet, and worst of all, mushy.
When Ashley came by, I very politely told her that the food didn’t appeal to me, that the meat in the gyro was mushy. Her cheery reply: “Can I get you more sauce?” Well, I smiled and told her this was a problem that couldn’t be solved by more sauce, and I requested tomato soup and crackers.
Sitting at the counter reflecting on this common exchange, I had to laugh. It was one of the funniest illustrations of a common predicament ever. It was truly reflective of how we approach problem solving in business, personal issues (marriage, relationships, parenting), even, maybe especially, in government.
Sales slipping? Offer your customer a quantity discount. Shipping problems? Offer the customer longer terms. New product not selling? Drop the price. Sell it to more customers. Competition taking your business? Replace your salesman. These solutions, on some level, represent “more sauce”.
How about at home? Kids missing curfew? Make it 11 p.m., instead of 1 a.m. Spouse distant, not communicating? Show him with the cold shoulder treatment. Kids a little despondent? How about a new video game! Relationship problems? Find a new partner. These solutions amount to “more sauce.”
There are applications in the complex world of governance as well. Our current system is so tainted with favors, entitlement, corruption, and other claims to privilege, that whatever the side of the political system you claim as home, it is almost sure that your leaders claim that the solution to our cultural problems is more of their particular brand of sauce.
No solutions offered to these brief examples, simply these thought-provoking questions:
When confronted with a problem, does the instinctive reaction reflect thoughtful, creative, long-term problem solving process?
Is the solution founded on solid principles and values and does it identify and address the real problem?
Or does it amount to more sauce?
Are we going to continue to make choices, continue practices, offer customer solutions and elect leaders that only offer more sauce?
The soup was delicious.