How Two Humble People Made My Day

By Greg Nathan posted June 30, 2023

Last week I had a phone conversation with a financial advisor about my mum. I chose him on Google as he had a lot of 5-star ratings, which I hoped were real. The initial call was organised through an appointment app on their website.

After stating his name (we'll call him Michael), and that we had 15 minutes for the call, he launched into asking questions about my mother’s financial position. When I suggested he first tell me a bit about himself, he arced up. “I am very busy and have limited time.”

I paused and took a breath “I appreciate that, but I know nothing about you, and you are asking me to share some pretty personal information. How about you just tell me your qualifications, how long you’ve been with the firm and your experience in this field.”

“I own this business, and I know what I’m doing” he barked. I felt like hanging up, but persisted.

“I also own my own business, Michael, and I understand it can be stressful. Why don't we spend just 3 minutes where you tell me how long you've run the business and why you do what you do.”

He laughed and relaxed. I found out that he decided to work in this area after having a bad experience with his own mother’s move to an aged care facility. He employed 8 staff who specialised in different aspects of the industry and he was based in Melbourne. The rest of the conversation went well.

The next day I received a text. “Hi Greg. I hope you received the material I sent and I look forward to our next meeting. Regards Michael.”

Human or robot?

My last tip was a rave about how AI is dehumanising our society. For instance how our chats, texts and emails are becoming so automated that soon we will stop genuinely connecting with each other.

So I was a little suspicious of this text. I responded. “Is this really Michael?” About an hour later another text arrived. “Hi Greg. This was an automated text as part of our process. But Michael can’t wait to chat with you soon. Regards Jane.”

I felt better. In addition to knowing a little about who I'm talking to, I like to know if I am really talking to them.

“Ah, but Greg”, you might be thinking, “this email is automated. You didn’t manually type in my name at the top or write this just for me.”

True. But we have a mutual understanding about this. And I can promise you, I am really writing this, not ChatGPT.  And I’ll tell you something else that you may find a little creepy. When I write something, I always visualise the person or people I’m writing to. Who knows. Maybe I’m thinking about you right now.

Are we here to serve or be served?

I was typing the first bit of this Tip from the back of a taxi on the way to the airport. It’s 5am and Gordie picked me up, both physically and emotionally. His friendly, attentive manner made the early morning trip a pleasure.

Now I am in the airport lounge and my favourite barista of all time is on the coffee machine. Maria has been working in the Qantas Business Club Lounge for 20 years and she is like a Zen master. She greets every person who orders a coffee like her best friend, and she focuses on making every drink perfectly. Maria is mindfulness personified.

“Good morning” she beams. “How are you this morning?” I am sure she really means it. As I wait for my coffee, I observe her making eye contact and having a quick, meaningful chat with every customer. As she hands me my soy flat white she smiles. “It’s good to see you. Have a great flight.”

I’d like to leave you with two thoughts. Firsty, it's the personal connections we make with others, no matter how imperfect these may be, that create trust and make a difference.

And secondly, to those of us who run our own businesses or are in leadership roles, we may think we are important, and that others need to acknowledge how busy and knowledgeable we are. But it’s the Gordies and Marias of this world, who go about their work with a quiet sense of joy and purpose, and who understand we are here to serve, not to be served, who truly make a positive difference in our increasingly depersonalised society. 

Until next time, let's keep those connections real.

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