"The Waiter Rule"
Your Success Thought for the Week of April 19, 2006

Every so often, I enjoy an article that I can’t wait to share with the world. I suspect this has happened to you. Perhaps you’ve uttered something like this: “If only George in Finance or Marie in HR would see this article. Then, they would finally ‘get it’!”

Such an article appeared for me in the April 14 USA Today Money section. It’s entitled “CEO’s Vouch for Waiter Rule - Watch how people treat staff ” and it’s about what you can tell about a hiring candidate (or anyone for that matter) by simply dining with them.

We’ve known for some time that Human Resources executives gain invaluable information from this process. In fact it happened for me years ago when I was the interviewing candidate.

The HR representative flew into my city to interview me for a senior sales position. We met for lunch at an upscale restaurant - one that has hosted presidents and international leaders.

While initially impressed with this selection, I was soon appalled by the lack of table manners from this ‘big city’ VIP, which included his downing two martinis, talking with large wads of food in his mouth, and allowing ranch dressing to drip from his chin.

And he was rude to the staff. I wondered if his CEO knew how this individual represented his company while trying to impress a potentially key player? My interest in their firm ended that day.

The USA Today article gave me further clarity. While he was nice to me, the interviewer treated the staff as personal errand boys, constantly demanding more and more. It gave me a dismal glimpse into their corporate culture.

According to the USA Today article, “Its hard to get CEOs to agree about anything, but all interviewed agreed with the Waiter Rule. ‘How others treat the CEO says nothing,’ they say. But how others treat the waiter is like a magical window into the soul.”

The article goes on to describe that ‘just about every CEO has a waiter story to tell’. Here are some you hope are not told about you:

• “He was demanding and could not function well without a lot of hand-holding from his support system.” Siki Giunta, Managed Objectives CEO

• “Watch out for people who can turn charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with. Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles." Bill Swanson, Raytheon CEO

• "People with situational values have situational ethics, and those are people to be avoided.” Steve Odland, Office Depot CEO

Of course, the reverse is true. “Dave Gould, CEO of Witness Systems, experienced the rule firsthand when a waitress dumped a full glass of red wine on the expensive suit of another CEO during a contract negotiation. The victim CEO put the waitress to ease with a joke about not having had time to shower that morning. A few days later, when there was an apparent impasse during negotiations, Gould trusted that CEO to have the character to work out any differences.”

The Waiter Rule works for how we treat all others-hotel staff, receptionists, doormen and grocery clerks to name a few. So, before making that important decision to hire a candidate, date, befriend or trust a new business partner, you might just want to invite the individual to dine with you. There’s much more than meets the eye.

What do your table manners and demeanor say about you? This may just be the week to find out.

Enjoy your discoveries and have a grand week!


Ann Golden Eglé, MCC
Executive Coach & President
Golden Visions Success Coaching, LLC

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