Two days before moving in, I walked through my new apartment with my leasing agent, Jennifer. With the stress of moving, my anxiety and attention to detail (OK, my OCD) were escalated.

I immediately noticed dirt and water all over the hardwood floors. I swiped my finger along the dusty baseboards. “Are you going to have this place professionally cleaned?” I demanded.

“It was clean when I came up earlier,” said Jennifer. “I don’t know what happened. Let me call Nick, our maintenance guy.”

It was a busy move-in day, and Nick looked frazzled when he walked in. “What seems to be the problem?” he asked Jennifer.

I didn’t give her time to answer. “Aside from the obvious,” I said, pointing to the floors, “there’s dust everywhere!” (Remember, I was a little stressed.)

“Look, dust is going to do what dust does,” he said. “I can wipe it away, but it will come back.”

“Well, can you keep it away until I move in?” I demanded.

Nick never really answered that question, nor did he seem concerned with my other complaints. But I was customer, and he should bend over backwards for me, right? He should have at least apologized.

The next morning, it occurred to me that Nick is responsible for my maintenance issues over the next year. There are approximately 400 other apartments in this building. Who would Nick help first? A picky, winy resident? Hmm…

The next week, I saw Nick working with a group of other men in the hallway. “Hey, Nick!” I said cheerily.

“Ah, hello,” he responded, sounding like he wished I would go away.

“Nick, can you forgive me?” I asked. “I can only imagine how annoying I was that day! Seriously, dust?!” Everyone busted out laughing, including Nick.

Several minutes later, I saw him alone and apologized again. “I was just stressed out,” I said.

“Me too,” he said.

My righteous indignation flared up. I wanted him to apologize too. Then I remembered that what I really want from him is prompt, quality service – not an apology.  

It’s easy to get caught up in the way things should” be done, instead of focusing on our goals. I expected Nick to provide good customer service simply because I was paying for his services. In truth, if I wanted to be treated well, I needed to treat him well. Naturally, I’ve had a couple maintenance issues, which were fixed immediately. To encourage this high-quality service, I sent his team a thank-you note. I know, it’s goofy, but it works.  

Leaders often fail to attract and retain happy, productive employees because they forget to consider what might motivate and inspire individual team members. Instead, they think (and often say), “I pay you. Now, do your job well.” If you want results, figure out how to get them, instead of insisting on getting them your way.

Rock on,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of Hidden Heroes and From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations

P.S., Click here to order your copy of my new book, Hidden Heroes, today.