I recently celebrated a milestone with a friend by sharing a meal at a fancy restaurant in London. We choose it because of its reputation. We arrived in good time, and the staff used my name to greet us. They led us to a table, offered drinks and menus, and explained what else was available from their daily specials. So far, so good.
As we studied the menu and considered our choices, I found my eyes continually drawn to a vase of flowers in the middle of the room, which were dead. I’m not talking of an artistic composition of dried flowers, but a wilted drooping quite dead arrangement. It was one of those distractions that just kept taking our attention at the edges of consciousness. It just didn’t fit the environment. Diverting, frustrating, creating a challenge to the task at hand – choosing the food we wanted to eat. I wondered: if the flowers were dead, how fresh would the vegetables be today?
The waiter came over, but we hadn’t decided what to eat as both of us were distracted by this incongruity. We asked him to move the vase of dead flowers. We learned that the restaurant used an external supplier who delivered fresh blooms weekly. They were due to be replaced soon. Unfortunately, the hot weather we had been experiencing had done its work and a week’s gap was too long. We were dining the day before the supplier was due to replace them. The restaurant had failed to see the impact what was blindingly obvious to us as customers. Fair play to the restaurant, they quickly cleared the dead flowers away, and immediately the whole space felt more upmarket and worth the prices on the menu.
We ordered some fabulous food and shared a bottle of great wine. It was an incredible celebration. Yet sometime later, here I am writing about that vase of dead flowers. Small factors can make a big impression. These were specialists at their trade – waiting table with precisely the correct elements to make it an enjoyable experience. Experts, perhaps Masters, were in the kitchen, producing simply delicious food. Yet the overall experience was tainted by a tiny distraction.
For me, mastery is about eliminating those small elements as much as it is about making the significant change from being an expert to becoming the master of your field, the very best at what you do.
What is the vase of dead flowers in your business? What element of your work do your clients find frustrating or distracting, which, when you eliminate it, will make a lasting and profound difference to how those clients view your business? Sometimes, like the servers in the restaurant, what is frustrating or mildly aggravating isn’t obvious to you. Your clients’ annoyance isn’t visible to you until they point it out. When they do, you should, of course, take immediate action.
When you are intentional and open your eyes to look afresh, you will spot the vase of dead flowers. Move it before it distracts. When you are dedicated to every part of the experience you give others, you unlock your mastery and it will truly shine.