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What I Learnt From An Outstanding Waiter

23 Aug 2017 at 13:46hrs | Views
About ten years ago, I worked as a waiter for a certain company which offered catering services to different functions in S.A. One day we were booked to serve at a function which was in Auckland Park. Our supervisor contacted us to inform us that we should all go to a certain B.P Garage. We waited there for about an hour without any transport arriving. The driver of the Quantum which was supposed to ferry us arrived way behind time, dead drunk!

When he arrived one of the waiters confronted him about being so late. That particular waiter took the keys away from this driver who was drunk and told the driver to go back home, they would discuss the matter after the function. I wondered why the driver would be so scared of a waiter, well I found out the reason later.

The waiter drove us to the venue of the function as fast as he could. When we arrived there, the function organizers didn't waste time to attack the driving waiter for our late arrival. They were fuming and threatened to call off our poor services and look for more a serious company. To my surprise,the waiter simply took full responsibility for the drunk late driver's irresponsibility and apologized sincerely. He then asked us to get on with the business of the day. He did not explain to them that he was not the real driver responsible for the mess or late arrival. Personally, I felt annoyed that the organizers were attacking the wrong person; the person who had actually helped us out by driving us there although it was not his responsibility. I quickly noticed that this particular waiter commanded a lot of respect among all the staff. Whenever a waiter was not sure of what to do, he consulted him. I was still new in the company.

After about an hour, the organizer who had complained the most about our late arrival approached this particular waiter who serving with us and this was their conversation:

Organizer: Excuse me gentleman, are you not the driver of your staff:

Waiter: No sir. I am not. I am a waiter.
Organizer: But you are the one who drove them here earlier on today, right?

Waiter: Yes sir, I am.
Organizer: Oh my goodness, why didn't you tell me that you were not the driver when I shouted at you? I am so sorry. What happened to the driver?

(i noticed that this waiter avoided revealing what had happened to the incompetent irresponsible drunk driver. He simply gave the following response....)

Waiter: Telling you I was not the driver was not going to make any difference sir. The fact is we were late, period. We can't give excuses for that. It doesn't matter who is responsible for the mess, you need your services delivered well and on time. We take full responsibility of any incompetence done by our colleagues. Whenever one messes up, he does so on behalf of the company. It's always a collective responsibility.

The organizer nodded his big head and went on to tell his team what he had just heard. I saw them looking at this particular waiter as they whispered and nodded their big heads in acknowledgement and appreciation of the rare display of leadership excellence exhibited by the waiter. 'It's all about the company', I thought about the waiter's fascinating philosophy on my way home after the function. I have seen the philosophy of this outstanding waiter being confirmed as true over the years. It's all about the company. Let me highlight a few key points from this story before I eat my breakfast.

Number 1.
It's all about the company! People don't mind much about who you are as an individual, they are more concerned about the company you represent. If a policeman brutally assaults someone, not even one person would be concerned about knowing the name of that policeman. People would be talking about the entire company he represents (police service/ police force). The act of one individual will always be viewed as a representation for the entire team or company. If a teacher rapes a school child, no one worries about who that teacher is. In banks, taxi ranks and in the streets, everyone will go around talking about how rotten today's teachers are and complaining about the immorality that is now prevailing in the company (teaching profession). Why? You see, it's all about the company ladies and gentlemen. If you get into a nasty fight while carrying a bible, no one will care about your name or surname, they will talk about your company (Christianity) and the double standards of Christians as a whole. You represent a company. You are a brand in motion. Whatever company you are representing, represent it well. The reputation of that 'company' depends on your performance. 'Vanity of vanities,' cries Gwizi The Motivator. What shall it profit a company to work so diligently to maintain is great service, only to be let down by your incompetence or the incompetence of the late drunken driver. This surely is vanity and chasing after wind. Raise your A-Game, elevate your performance to master-class and polish your skills to genius, refine your talents to epic performance, unleash some uncommon levels of productivity and raise your standards to B.I.W (Best In the World.)

Number 2.
You are not excused or excepted from shouldering the blame for the incompetence of the late drunk driver or your incompetent team members. Therefore, take charge of the situation in that different department, take the keys from the incompetent drunk driver and drive the team to where it is eagerly awaited. Save the company from embarrassment and public shame, that is mission critical! It's all about the company. I always tell my learners that if 5 learners get 100 % in all subjects and the rest of the learners fail, the overall pass rate for the class would be a record-breaking humiliating 30%. I tell them if that happens, no one would care about the 5 who got distinctions, everyone will laugh at the whole class for being part of the embarrassing 30% class average. The weaker learners should therefore be diligently assisted because they are failing on behalf of the company (class). Therefore let's help them out. The pathetic late drunk driver will put all of us in trouble, let's take his car keys, cover up for his short comings, take charge of the situation and rush to serve with excellence the customers who are eagerly awaiting our arrival. It's about the company ladies and gentlemen.

Number 3.
Did I mention that I later discovered that this particular waiter-cum-driver was actually one of the owners of that company? He wore the waiter's uniform, was earlier than most and worked harder than all, yet he was the boss. It took me 3 weeks to know that he was one of the founding members of the company @humility. Who said being a leader is about relaxing in your fancy suit and turning on your rocking arm chair with a glass of orange juice, barking orders to your subordinates? Take off your oversize suit Mr Boss, put on the waiter's uniform. Serve with them, be insulted together with them by customers, feel the pains they go through, be in their shoes. Then you will be in a better position to solve the problems of the company. Now, that is leadership excellence at it's very best. After all, it's all about the company.

Mthokozisi Gwizi is an inspirational author. He has written several articles for various newspapers and magazines and has spoken on a number of radio stations. Kindly send your feedback to

Source - Mthokozisi Gwizi
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