There I was, standing in Terminal A of the San Jose Airport, waiting for the Director of Sales from a large technology company based in Southern California. We had been talking for a while and he was wooing me to work for him as a sales engineer at his company. So during one of his trips through the Bay Area, we agreed to meet at 8:00 AM at the San Jose Airport and I would meet the rest of the Bay Area team later.

Well, I arrived early and waited for his arrival in the concession area where we agreed to meet. Sure enough, at the agreed time, the Director walked up and introduced himself. He was cordial enough and he seemed genuinely excited about the prospect of having me join his team.
“Bob” (not his real name) asked if I needed anything and, as we were meeting in the morning, coffee was my drink of choice. We walked over to the concession area to get him some water and a cup of coffee for me.
Well, this was not a Starbucks shop.
The hired help was a little behind the eight ball and the big coffee urn was bone dry. In addition to an empty coffee urn, we had a little bit of trouble flagging down someone to notify them of the lack of “liquid enthusiasm”.
When we finally did flag down somebody, he said that he was brewing more coffee and it would take a few minutes. Having done some time behind a counter, I can empathize with what the counter help goes through when these things happen.
Now, I have seen good service and I’ve seen poor service. I’ve seen servers push themselves to 110% when they only had 85% to give, and I’ve seen servers take a wholly apathetic attitude toward the clientele. This team was not equipped to handle the backup that they were experiencing and it was obvious that they were doing the best they could with what they had.
Which is why I was surprised at “Bob’s” reaction.
He went off talking about “how slow these people were”. He called back several times in a huffed manner, asking where the coffee was and how much longer was it going to take. Even after I volunteered to forgo the coffee in the interest of time, he was insistent that the situation was insufferable and that the hired help needed to “get their act together”. Mind you, he wasn’t frothing at the mouth. But the behavior was far from a calm, controlled graciousness that I’ve come to expect from managers and leaders.


We finally did get an opportunity to sit down for about 15 minutes. We talked about the company, what he was planning to do with his group, and I did eventually talk to the rest of his team in the Bay Area. I did find it very appealing and in terms of my career, it would have been a very beneficial move.


However, when it came time to make a decision, that brief event at the airport constantly played out in my mind. It left me with a burning question: “If this small inconvenience threw him for a loop, what was going to happen when something bigger happened like his reps not meeting their numbers?”
I know that “Bob” was on a short time frame and he had to catch a flight out of the area. But in cases like these, we would do well to borrow a page from the US Marines’ play book: Adapt and Overcome.
In spite of liking the team in the Bay Area and liking what I knew about the company, when it came time to decide if I should take the position, I politely declined.
“Bob’s” reaction? Just what I expected based on my observations at the airport.
Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.
Don’t fuss about trifles.
Taking it a step further, Richard Carlson wrote a whole book around Principle #9 entitled Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff — And It’s All Small Stuff.
As leaders, we need to be mindful of the impact our attitude has on the people around us. Which means we have to decide how much anxiety we are willing to give to a particular circumstance and we can’t let the small stuff get to us.
Something to keep in mind when you’re out there hunting for new talent and leading your teams. You’re being watched constantly.
Don’t sweat the small stuff and your team will always look to you for leadership.