We've all done it. OK, at least I know I have.
Underestimated someone. Inadvertently undervalued an individual. Made unconscious (or quite conscious) judgments on what someone was or wasn't based on their outward appearance. It's such behavior that produces the old standby, "You can't judge a book by its cover".
18-year-old Bryce Dudal just re-lit that candle--with a flamethrower, as reported in The Washington Post. The Gen Z'er, a backward ball hat, baggy shorts wearing employee of Hungry Howie's in suburban Detroit dropped off a pizza to the Varchetti family. He noticed a sweet piano sitting in the foyer and asked if he could take a peek at it. When asked if he played he unassumingly said he did, then was invited to give it a whirl.
The Varchetti's thought it would be nice to have their home filled with the tinkling of the ivories as the instrument primarily served as a piece of furniture or occasional coat rack.
In my column, I usually save any videos for the end, but this can wait no longer. Watch what happened when Dudal sat down at the piano.
Let's just say it was enough to get 10-year-old Ryan Varchetti to stop playing Fortnite and to look up, watch, and listen. Video game phenomenon, meet the original app--music. In this case the third movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata".
By the way, Dudal is self-taught. He took piano lessons as a child but didn't want to slow down to learn the basics, so he floated from teacher to teacher until he found one that would work to his desired outcome. He just wanted to learn how to play complex pieces that he loved.
He set music aside to focus on baseball and has a scholarship to play on his local community college team. He's thinking about getting back into music due to the attention the video has already gotten him.
When asked about the incident at the Varchetti's, Dudal had all the casual detachment you'd expect of a teenager. He sat at the piano because he figured he'd get a kick out of surprising the Varchetti family.
Dudal said his customers don't know of his hidden talents. "All they see is a pizza delivery guy".
And that is the real message to this unlikely tale.
Let this story be a reminder to never, ever underestimate your employees.
Your job isn't just to get the right people on the bus, but to get all the people on the bus right. That means putting effort into recognizing each and every employee for the unique talents they have and creating the kind of environment where all their talents can come out.
Individual talents surface and blossom when leaders grant autonomy and create an inclusive environment where risk-taking is encouraged and rewarded. Talents surface when judgments aren't made based solely on appearances, ethnicity, age, or first impressions.
Leaders unearth individual talents by creating intentional learning and growth opportunities and holding those opportunities sacred. Gifts burst forth when leaders take the time to understand the employee as a person and what their needs, wants, and dreams are.
Likewise when leaders teach employees to focus on chasing authenticity instead of approval, on focusing on becoming better than they were yesterday versus worrying about being better than peers.
In this way, you, dear leader, are a piano teacher too. And I can guarantee you that striving to bring out the unique talents of everyone on your team will be a high note in your career.