In the Tension

On The Other Side


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Sometimes making the decision to do something – even when that something is the last thing you want to do – is the best way to stay tenacious in the tension.

Twelve weeks ago, I started working at Instacart. This was the last thing I wanted to do.

Instacart is an app-based grocery shopping company that allows customers to make a grocery shopping list and have someone shop and deliver their groceries to them.

I sat at my training interview thinking: “What are you doing here, sg?”

After my first day working for Instacart at Whole Foods, I really wanted to quit. But I didn’t. I’m not a quitter. I made a decision that day that I was going to try my best to not complain about this opportunity. (Except complaining about how cold it is in grocery stores!)

I was going to do my best to let this be a training season. A training season on the other side of my comfort zone. A training season in customer service – a field I’ve never worked in before. A training season in not being the person in charge. A training season in serving others.

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These are my notes from the other side:

1. Always pray for the people you serve.

From day one, I made the decision that I was going to pray for every single “batch” (shopping list) that I received before I started working on it. I would never meet the people that I served, but you learn a lot about people based on their grocery shopping lists. You learn whether they have kids, gluten allergies, a cold, and tons of other things.

Praying for people before you serve them gives you an open door into their spirits.

It helps you remember that all people are created in the image of God.

It helps you serve them as though you were serving Christ.

2. Make the call.

I would never see my customer’s faces, but this didn’t mean they didn’t have a voice. Before the app allows you to start the checkout process, you have to call the customer if you’ve replaced any of their items. You can bypass this phone call by sending a text message to them about the changes to their order. It’s much easier and faster to send a text message than making the call. From a shopper perspective, we are ranked based on our metrics. The faster you shop, the more batches you get. The more batches you get, the more money you make. Making the call often ruins your metrics, because it takes time.

Serving demands time.

Making the call to the person you’re serving is how to serve excellently.

Excellence demands sacrifice.

Making the call to the person you’re serving values the person over the system.

3. Be kind. Be merciful.

From a leadership perspective, perhaps one of the most exciting things about being a start-up company is the freedom to create and innovate. I discovered this is perhaps one of the least exciting things for employees. Constant changes – while they are exciting for leadership – get passed on to the employees to execute. My shift supervisor was given the task to implement these changes under the watchful eyes of her supervisors. To be honest at first, I resented all the changes. Then, I remembered all the times that I’ve implemented changes among my teams. This caused me to start to be kind. I started to be merciful to the people leading me.

Creativity and innovation thrive in a culture of kindness.

Changes met by mercy instead of resentment help everyone go farther faster.

4. Consider it an honor to be the guinea pig.

I was an anomaly to the metrics system. My supervisors could not understand how I was getting so fast and accurate so quickly. I attribute much of this to notes 1-3 and to fact that I am a fast learner. But they didn’t know that. They just knew that in my short time at Instacart, I was performing like some of the senior shoppers. So what did they do? They made me the guinea pig for the new ideas they wanted to implement to train new shoppers. These new ideas included everything from my shift supervisor following me around observing my approach to my shift supervisor clocking the amount of steps I took per order with a pedometer, and to my shift supervisor implementing new checkout methods with me. At first, all I wanted was to be left alone. Let me to do me. And then I started to think about all the people on my teams that I’ve made to be guinea pigs for new ideas. I thought about why I chose them and I realized that I choose to ask certain people to do things, because I admire their approach.

To everyone I’ve asked to be a guinea pig for one of my crazy ideas: thank you for enduring my madness. And forgive me for not explaining to you that I chose you to be a guinea pig out of admiration.

Consider it an honor to be the guinea pig.

Consider it an honor when your leaders see something in you that they want to clone, so that others can be like you.

If you’re chosen, then it’s because you’re doing something right.

If you’re chosen, then it’s because you’re setting the new standard.

If you’re chosen, then it’s because you’re blazing a trail for others to follow.

5. People love yogurt.

After twelve weeks, I completed probably around 300 batches and the item that makes it on nearly everyone’s shopping list is yogurt. Greek yogurt, almond milk yogurt, grassfed yogurt, and not to mention all the different flavors in these broad categories. People love yogurt. One batch had 24 individual cups of Stonyfield chocolate yogurt. When I first looked at the batch, I thought there’s no way they’re going to have 24 cups of this yogurt. Much to my surprise, they had 24 individual cups. Why? Because…people love yogurt.

What’s the lesson here?

My mom uses this phrase when she’s going to grocery store sometimes: “I’m going to get the essentials.” I came to discover that yogurt was one of “the essentials” for so many of my customers. “The essentials” are those things that make the list to get you through the week.

As we humbly serve others, it’s crucial that we always seek to meet people’s essential needs. That we meet their essential needs to help get them through the week.

I worked my last day at Instacart last week. I can honestly say that although this was the last thing that I wanted to do, I learned a lot about humbly serving others. I learned lessons that I pray will make me a better servant leader. I learned lessons that I pray will make you a better servant leader in the areas God has called you to steward people that He’s placed in your hands.

In the tension together,

sg

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