Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lessons I Learned as a Mall Cop

Today you all get to meet the oft mentioned BFF. She is an amazing entrepreneur, and awesome friend.

We met when we were 12, and have been friends for over 20 years now. That is pretty cool, I think. We get together every week for breakfast or dinner and a good long chat. We talk life, and kids, books and food and God. And these days we talk a lot of business.

Mary is growing her consulting business and I am growing a blog. And it is amazing how our journeys have mirrored each other. We are both learning lots of new things, and we challenge each other and encourage each other in our growth.

Enjoy Mary's story, and then click over to her site, Orian Performance Group. (here) She has tips of the week and online courses that you can sign up for if you interested in growth-business or otherwise.

Since she and I can't actually be together this week, I am bringing you her post on Tuesday. I will be like a sneak peek into our weekly conversation.

“Please be gone. Please be gone.” This had become a nightly prayer those first few weeks after being hired as a part-time security officer at our local mall. I had recently graduated from college with a degree in Criminal Justice. I knew a future in law enforcement did not appeal to me the way it once had. Taking the part-time position at the mall seemed perfect while I figured out what I really wanted to do with my life. But there I was, hoping and praying that the five juveniles who were loitering near the upper north entrance would be gone upon my arrival so I wouldn’t have to “deal with” them.

I had always considered myself more of an introvert. I like people, and I want them to like me (perhaps to a fault). I was never the life of the party, but I have always had good, close friends. I’m sure they would agree that I am a very nice person.

But Security Officers can’t always be nice. Sometimes they have to confront rule breakers. Sometimes they will be disliked.

Dang! They were still there. Why on earth did I take this job?

There were those juveniles, and now I had to walk right up to them and say something. I did. And it was uncomfortable, and they argued with me, and I got angry, and so did they. But they did finally leave: I did eventually get the situation resolved.

And the next night I did it again. And the next night I did it again. Different juveniles, different offenses, different arguments, but the same dread. But also the same resolution.

After about a month, I began to notice a change. It started small, with the chant, in fact. On my way to a call, I no longer prayed that people would vanish. After that, I noticed that my pace quickened when a call came in. Still later, I began a new chant. “Please be there. Please be there.” After six months on the job, I was now praying for people to interact with. The job had become fun, and the fun was in the interaction.

Security Officers wear a uniform and a badge, but they are unarmed. They resolve problems with words. They use conversation to get people to stop, or start, doing things. This is challenging. This is especially challenging for introverts. But what I learned was, the more I did it, the better I got at it. The better I got at it, the more I wanted to do it. It was empowering. I began to anticipate reactions. I became more persuasive. I read books like Verbal Judo. I listened to other Officers and copied what worked.

And it wasn’t just interacting with misbehaving youths that I found enjoyable: calming down angry patrons; assisting parents to find lost children; coordinating with the police to track down suspects; practicing emergency response procedures were all exciting parts of the job. I found that being a “mall cop” was a complex, challenging, and fulfilling profession. As I moved into management positions, my enjoyment of the job only deepened. I found that pouring my energy into training and developing a staff of Security Officers was even more rewarding.

celebrating Thanksgiving together
Fast forward 12 years, and my mall cop days are now behind me. I have ventured into the world of entrepreneurship. My passion for helping others grow and develop professionally, I am now trying to accomplish on a larger scale. However, I find myself facing some of those same early fears. Instead of responding to calls, I am now making them. And I have developed a new chant, “Please don’t pick up. Please don’t pick up.” New territory, old fear.

There’s no guarantee that I will find as much fulfillment and satisfaction from this new endeavor (although I am finding it just as challenging). But I know that there is a chance that the new calls can become fun to me the way the old ones did. I need to find the equivalent to Verbal Judo in the selling world, and tag along with more seasoned businessmen to learn from them. And make the calls again, and again, and again. But I am hopeful.

What life lessons have you learned from your job? How are you facing your fears?