Friday, June 14, 2013

The Waiter Test

How to Administer "The Waiter Test"

Before I agree to work with anyone, whether it's a collaborator, potential client, or an agent or manager, I give them "The Waiter Test" (it's capitalized because I've administered the test for years, and it never fails to give me a sound answer to my questions of character).

Taking a leap of faith with a new person professionally can be intimidating, there’s always worry that they’re not in alignment with my standards. What if this person is controlling, or non-committal, or worse – arrogant? The Waiter Test answers all these questions. It is an important aspect of my professional life and it’s saved me from blindly stepping in line with the wrong person many times. 

Here’s how the Waiter Test works, in three steps.

1. Invite Potential Collaborator to a Nice Restaurant and Observe

Usually I’ll ask them to meet in person, and lunch is a great option. Nice restaurants are my favorite places to meet, because a fancier atmosphere can be an invitation for elitist behavior. I believe if a person is disposed to arrogance, an upscale restaurant is probably the most likely place I’ll see that type of behavior before he and I hit the trenches together and it’s too late.

I always get there at least fifteen minutes early so I can observe how Potential Collaborator makes his entrance. Does he nod to the hostess when he comes in, or does he breeze by and ignore her greeting? I want to work with people who extend themselves and are friendly, even to strangers, so I really watch for this.

2. Let’s Order Drinks

Since I came early, I've already ordered my drink but now it’s time for Potential Collaborator to order his. To me, there’s a huge difference between saying, “I’d like a water, please” and “I need water.” One of those sentences is rude and demanding, while the other is polite and respectful. Which person would you rather work with?

3. Watch and Learn

From here on out, Potential Collaborator will make or break our future together. Snapping his fingers to get a waiter’s attention would drive me nuts and that would be the end of the relationship. But treating the waiter as an equal human being? That’s what I’m looking for in a working partnership.

What I've learned from the Waiter Test is that someone who really has their life together doesn't have to tell you about it. They show you through action. I’m looking to surround myself with these kinds of people, because that’s the kind of worker I am.

Go out and try "The Waiter Test" yourself! I bet you’ll be surprised by how much you learn.

Have a fantastic day!
--Paul Jacob Evans