Want to know about quality? Ask a kid.

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Some of the most obvious lessons come from unexpected places.  As an example, I spent this morning volunteering at my kids’ summer camp doing face painting.  To understand the lesson learned, I would need to back up and explain that the director, also someone I consider a good friend of mine, had asked me to help out with the big carnival event a week before and I replied that all of what she had planned sounded great except for face painting.  Face painting was the only thing I didn’t want anything to do with because I wouldn’t say “artistic” things are something I’m particularly good at.  It’s important we know our weaknesses, and I’d probably identify that as one of mine.  I doodle in spirals and daisies… that’s it.

Fast forward to this morning and I’m handed what appears to be a professional face painting set and was told there would be a few hours where kids of various ages from two to ten would come through and want either something painted on themselves or a “tattoo,” in exchange for two tickets.  They were given ten at the door and were required to allocate them among several pretty cool carnival style games and goodies.  To their credit, this facility does an excellent job in planning these kinds of things and really do put that touch of love into everything they do.

Rather than panic about this, I decide that the template given to me (the marketing materials used to let kids select what they’d like me to do), doesn’t seem impossible.  At the very least, I can handle stars, rainbows and hearts.  There were fancy looking brushes and an entire roll of paper towels… challenge accepted.

The time period from 9:30am to 12pm is a blur to me.  There were so many children wanting so many tattoos and designs all over. In fact, flames shooting up from the arm was my most frequent request!  You learn very quickly how to teach kids to mix primary colors to get other colors. I also learned that it’s not just my children that find it impossible to be still. Myth or not, the cotton candy, sno cones and popcorn did seem to have an energizing effect.  This makes straight lines very difficult!

Regardless, what I learned from this in addition to having a lot of fun, was that kids know what quality is and they demand it.  They obviously weren’t giving it any serious thought at the time, but some of the things they said were so intuitive of what we strive for when meeting and exceeding expectations.  As consumers, these kids knew that two tickets would eat up their resources, so they were pretty careful to decide exactly what it was they wanted.

Girl: “You’re like an artist or something.”

Me: “Why do you say that?”

Girl: “You really look like you’re concentrating.”

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Girl: “You seem to really like doing this.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s fun.”

Girl: “When I grow up, I want to do lots of things that are fun too.”

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Boy: “You did a really great job with this.”

Me: “Thanks.  You look like a superstar.”

Boy: “I’m glad you took your time.  It looks awesome.”

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Girl: “Oh, it’s exactly what I wanted!”

Me: “Great!”

Girl” “You did exactly what I asked.  Thanks!”

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Girl: “You’re really good at that!”

Me: “How do you know? You haven’t seen it yet.”

Girl: “I can just tell by how careful you’re doing it.”

Kids do really have some interesting ways of communicating what we too often try to overcomplicate.  Even though the designs I did weren’t perfect (although very good), the placement of value appeared to be how much love I put into it.  They waited with no complaints as I really did try my best for each request.  For me, it was one of the most challenging endeavors I’ve ever taken on! I did have to pass on the pegasus though…

As an afterthought, Aidan did tell me on the way home that he thought the face painting booth was the most popular.  He explained that even though he chose to use up his tickets on cotton candy and sno cones, no other booth had lines like mine.  And, he said it seemed like everyone had at least one or  two things on their face or arm!

Question: How do we maintain the level of quality we put towards things when we’re just starting to learn… that level of concentration that we lose when we feel comfortable with something?

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