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"How May I Help You?" The Cure for Burnout

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

We just finished the first week of 2022, and everyone I speak to already seems burned out. Rising inflation, economic and employment anxiety, political unrest, a service industry in turmoil, supply chain anxiety, empty grocery shelves, a new COVID variant uptick, and just the usual “new year, new you” goals to make you feel like you aren’t working hard enough for yourself.

It’s overwhelming enough to give up on 2022 and start looking forward to 2023, right?

Or maybe it’s simply a matter of perspective.

A few years ago, I owned a valet parking company. We were in the running for a valet/concierge contract at a well-known Charlotte based orthopedic care practice, yet our company had no medical facilities on our resume. Even so, we interviewed well enough to make the final round, and were asked to present any additional information we wished to contribute.

I had personal experience managing valet/concierge at hospitals and medical centers in North Carolina, Tennessee, and California, as well as five years’ experience as a companion volunteer for hospice patients, so I talked to my management team about developing our existing employee training program and presenting it to the organization as part of our pitch.

Our clientele at the time included top restaurants and country clubs in the area, so we already had a training program focused on high level customer service experience. To this, I added the hospice mantra of “Meet them where they are”, and wrote a medical center focused training module that shifted the “How are you today?” opening pitch to “How may I help you?” The simple phrase was presented as a trigger for the valet to look for opportunities to help, such as a confused expression in need of direction, a stressed demeanor implying the patient was behind schedule, a walker in the back seat, or a possible wheelchair request. More deeply, the phrase was presented to the employee as a reminder that an orthopedic patient may be in pain, and not having a good day, and the valet needed to be aware of this, and look for opportunities to improve the patient’s experience (as well as to not take anything personally).

We won the contract easily, and quickly gained recognition for our empathetic approach to patient care as valet parking attendents.

For my employees, this simple shift improved their awareness, empathy, and mindfulness in the workplace, and those restaurant employees who trained at the medical center reported making more tips when they returned to their regular shifts, because they found themselves being more giving, patient, and observant of all customers. And the customers noticed and appreciated it. I received wonderful feedback from many valet customers about the care and attention our employees gave to the simple service of parking cars.

A simple change of phrase made us a new company.

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhist master of Karma Kaguy and Nyingma lineages, and leader of the Tergar Meditation Community, says that we will find compassion when we understand that we are all the same in that we desire to avoid suffering and pursue happiness. We all struggle, and our struggles are very alike as common human experiences. Not one of us is special as absent from suffering, and not one of us is lacking in the capacity to give compassion to another who is suffering. And this understanding can help us reframe our suffering, especially when we give to others out of compassion. And giving can help reduce our suffering because it makes us happy and reframes our experiences.

And we all want the same thing, says Rinpoche: we all want to be happy.

Matthew Hepburn, meditation teacher and Senior Content Strategist for the Ten Percent Happier app, says we can sometimes feel powerless and overwhelmed by how little control we feel we have over our circumstances. However, he says, if we start small, very small, like letting someone pull in front of us in traffic or pausing to allow a pedestrian cross a road. The smile and wave we receive can make us feel the world is more of a friendly place, and shifts our mindset the next time we face challenges to our goals. The satisfaction we feel contributes to a momentum, so that we enact other small actions, and start to feel we have a relationship to life that is more engaged, and we then begin to see more opportunities to influence positive change.

Giving to others in small ways, having compassion for others on a small scale, can change our relationship to the world, and how we see the world, because it helps us to engage in a more authentic and meaningful way. It also helps us connect to people, even strangers, which makes us happy.

This was the mindset I embodied to train my employees when I owned Fleet Parking, and the spirit behind the motto emblazoned at the top of our company website: “Our reputation is our contract.” Every day, we talked about putting customer service at the forefront of everything we did to be successful, and we did that by putting the customer first. This did not mean “the customer is always right”, because we often turned down business if we knew we could not provide our expected levels of service with the resources available. It did mean that we operated in a manner that allowed us to proudly put our name on everything we did, because we gave all we could to connect to people and give them an amazing experience, regardless of our bottom line. That was always rewarding, every day of the week.

My highest priority as a solar consultant is helping people. Solar isn't for everyone, so a consultation needs to determine the value for your home and leave you wanting to refer your friends even if you don't go solar.

Jamie Duncan is a proud solar consultant operating in the Lake Norman/Charlotte area of North Carolina. Please see link for all contact information and Calendly connection to learn more or set up a virtual or in-person appointment to discuss solar for your home.

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