Chances are you have been there at one time or another. That small diner on the corner in some small town you were passing through.

The one with the handwritten list of the daily specials clipped to the menu. Where the genuinely happy owner greeted the regular customers by name, and where from time to time you heard someone ask: “What’s good today?”

If you lingered a while in that diner you probably noticed something else. No matter how hectic things seemed to get, everyone remained comfortable with the way things were going. Instead of griping and complaining, each of them accepted their role and played it well.

The customers were patient with the pace of service even during the busiest times of the day. The staff kept smiling and did their best to meet everyone’s needs, and the owner stepped in to do whatever needed to be done to keep the place running smoothly.

Granted, not all of these places run as smoothly as this little scenario suggests, but they do tend to meet your expectations, and therein lies an important lesson for the everyday leader.

Think about it. When you walked into that little place, you had some sense of what to expect. You knew the role you would be playing as a customer, you knew the role that the wait staff would play in serving you, and you fully expected there to be some visible leader keeping the place running smoothly.

And you knew that if you asked that magical question, “What’s good today?” that someone would tell you.

So what is the lesson? That there is real value in creating clear expectations for the people you lead and the people you serve, and that from time to time you need to ask “What’s good today?”

It is a simple, but critically important question for the everyday leader to ask for several reasons:

  • To send a clear signal that you care what is going on at that moment and are interested in the opinions of your employees, suppliers, and customers.
  • To get people to think about the positive things that are going on around them that are all too often forgotten in the face of the challenges of the day.
  • To position the leader as someone who is looking for the good instead of as someone who points out only the things that are not working.

Enough said. There is power in making time each day to ask everyone that you can, no matter how they interact with your organization, “What’s good today?” and then listen to their answer. You’ll learn a lot, but more important, you will get people thinking about and looking for good things!

So what are you waiting for?

ACTION ADVICE: Get out of your office and go ask someone “What’s good today?” Then share what you hear with the people who made it good. You’ll become a better leader, your team will become more positive, and your organization will create stronger relationships with those who make it succeed.