True hospitality goes both ways

We often find our best selves during our toughest moments. Unfortunately, that simple truth seems to be going the wrong way. Consider a recent morning in Hinsdale.

A woman finishes her workout and gleefully punches in an order for a tall Starbucks on the iPhone tucked into her Lululemon pants. She jumps in her SUV to pick up her mobile order, which looks to be ready in three minutes.

However, her mood collapses when she walks into the store and realizes the order is not ready. Offering a forced smile, she stands back to wait. Soon other customers are arriving and the crowd grows angry as the minutes pass.

There are only three people working, including a woman named Sarah, who is handling the specialty drinks and mobile orders. New orders keep pouring out of her computer and she races around to fill them.

The Lululemon lady notices that her drink is waiting just behind the plexiglass barrier. She is about to grab it when she hears Sarah mutter, "This is pretty hard for my first day."

This is the crisis restaurants and hotels face right now. Restaurant owners tell me they are trying to balance short staffs, lack of training time and really demanding customers with short fuses. Thus the Starbucks scene. Even the airlines are canceling flights because they can't get enough employees.

There are many reasons for why this is happening but one thing is for certain.

We, the customers, are crabby. We have gotten used to someone bringing our order right to our car window. No need to even unbuckle the seatbelt.

Creating a great culture is one way to attract and retain loyal employees. We see this with many of our Hinsdale restaurants. When people feel they belong, they are willing to work hard because they like each other and they like serving people they know.

However, customers are part of culture as well. A friendly word, a kind smile and a forgiving heart can go far to motivating people and ensuring the restaurant is a desirable place for all.

Actually, I was the impatient lady in the Lululemon pants. I went back to Starbucks a week later to apologize to Sarah with hopes she hadn't quit. She was there and my coffee was perfect. I offered Sarah an explanation, and, at first, she didn't know what I was talking about. Then she thanked me and said: "No worries. I like my job."

Hospitality, at its best, goes both ways. We can bring out the best in each other even with simple gestures. It has been said that it is "easier to put on a pair of slippers than to carpet the whole world."

- Teri Goudie is a global communication consultant and former ABC News journalist. She recently published a book, "The Leadership Renaissance: Blending the Art and Science of You." She also is a former contributing columnist.