Messages

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I was walking down the street the other day and spied a bookstore.  I love browsing through bookshelves and decided to make my way in.  As I approached, a young lady, obviously an employee of the store as she sported a name tag, hastily jumped in front of me and made way for the door.  I was only steps behind her yet she opened the door, went in, and just let the door shut behind her without so much as any acknowledgement that I was in the vicinity.  I’m not a gigantic prude or anything but I thought this was a bit rude.  I mean, I normally hold the door when I see someone behind me going the same way. No big deal but not overly friendly or welcoming.

Later that day however, I got to thinking about this little act and it struck me how this little deal was actually a big deal, and the reason it was big was because it sent me a message about the business.  Now, I know that the owner of this business and all of the other employees are probably not bad people or anything but the message I got from this employee was one of general disinterest in me as a customer and it set an expectation, probably an unintended one, about the experience I would get.

Given the myriad responsibilities of business, I know most executives and managers don’t think about this too much but everything sends a message about the organization, from the parking lot to the signage to the appearance and actions of your employees.  I’ve often relayed the story of Walt Disney admonishing an employee for driving a car within sight of guests enjoying Disneyland.  He told the employee that the car simply didn’t fit; it sent a message that was out of place.  If a guest was supposed to be in turn-of-the-century America, how could a car be there?  Cars weren’t even invented then. The message was wrong.  Walt Disney made it clear that everything sent a message and that guests had to get unswerving messages about safety, courtesy, and a consistent “show” experience.

So maybe I’m being overly picky and an employee innocently letting a door shut in front of a customer is no big deal but I think Walt would agree with me, and I doubt anyone would say he didn’t know customers.  Take a look at your organization.  Take a walk around and really look at things, listen to your people, what are the messages?  Do the messages being sent by your business communicate welcome, friendliness, a desire to help, and that things will be easy?  If they don’t, what needs to change?

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Grateful for Every Minute

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Meet Paul or Tall Paul as he likes to be called.  He is tall at well over 6 feet and is hard to miss when you arrive at Hilton Grand Vacations on South Beach Miami.  But being tall is not all you remember, Paul is memorable for what he brings to his job, namely a positive helpfulness that is infectious.

When you arrive, you are immediately greeted with Paul’s big smile; he opens the door and quickly moves to help you with your luggage.  He follows this with an introduction that includes an invitation to ask him for help with anything.  He goes on to let you know that he is “always here” and willing to make your stay perfect.

My wife and I experienced Tall Paul back in September but I wanted to wait to share this just before the Thanksgiving holiday.  The reason is because of a story Paul shared with me.  I was down at the front desk asking a couple of questions and getting some towels for the beach.  Without being asked, Paul just overheard my request, ducked into a back room and came out towels in hand with his usual positive smile and helpfulness.  His enthusiasm prompted me to ask him what why he was so happy about his job.  He told me that he was grateful for everything in his life and that any negatives about his job were miniscule compared with the positives.  He told me a bit about his past and the fact that he was lucky to be alive.  Not too long ago he had been in a very bad car accident and was given a low chance of survival much less any chance of being able to walk.  Regardless of all the bad news and forecasts, Paul defied them all and came back to not only live but to walk as well.  Now he is grateful for every day, no, every minute, and it shows in his willingness and desire to help others.

I thought this was fitting for a post just before a holiday that is built around gratitude.  I know Paul has bad days or days when he would rather roll over and call in sick to just have a day to himself,  but he doesn’t, he lives a life of gratitude, he lives a life of “how can I be more helpful?”  What a great way to move forward, to each day be thankful that you are simply living, it puts a whole new spin on things.  Couple that with a desire to make a difference for others and you have a recipe for a meaningful life.

I’m sure Paul doesn’t make a king’s wage but he is rich indeed.  He wakes each day grateful to breathe another breath and he wants share his good fortune, what a great lesson for us all and one to certainly take into the Thanksgiving holiday.  How can you be more grateful? How can you make gratitude a daily thing, not just a November thing?  How can it make your life more meaningful for you and for others?

 

Defining Roles and Actions Makes the Difference

 

I went in a Chick-Fil-A the other day as my son had a craving for one of their sandwiches.  I was astounded at how busy they were.  There was a line of cars wrapped around the building and inside there was a similar line of people waiting to order.  And none of this was because of slow service, on the contrary, they were so busy because of all of things they, in my opinion, did so well.

To help facilitate the glut of cars, they had two people using iPads to take people’s orders. This enabled them to quickly relay the orders to the workers inside so that the food could be ready when cars got to the window.

As I thought it might be faster to go inside, I decided not to use the drive-thru option.  When I opened the door, there was a queue of people but it looked like it was moving pretty fast.  When I got to the counter and ordered, I found out why it moved so efficiently.  There was a certain choreography established.  When the order was taken, I was given a number, kindly asked to stand to the side and my order would be delivered, which it was in a matter of minutes.  There was a smooth cadence to the whole thing.  The team worked together in a calm manner; no panic was ever apparent. (I once worked in the restaurant business and it is easy to get panicky when a rush of customers hits.)

One other thing I noticed was certain language that was used over and over.  Whenever I said thank you to anyone who worked there, I got the same “my pleasure” as a response.  What that told me was that all of the things I saw and experienced in this short interaction were trained.  These employees had been trained to know what actions to take when things got really busy, to follow the choreography to make things efficient and to use certain positive language to make the experience enjoyable.

What’s the lesson? Employees need to know what to do, they need their roles defined, how to handle situations, the language of your organization and be given the flexibility to do whatever is necessary in favor of the customer.  How are you and your organization defining things for your employees and how are you then allowing just enough flexibility to make the experience breathe?

Purpose

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I was watching TV the other day and I saw an ad for a bank that’s part of a larger campaign where they show customers and employees in short vignettes talking about why they like working with or for the bank.  As expected, these vignettes are touching and give you that warm feeling, which, of course is the intent.  They want you to like them, we like doing business with people we like.  The bank is simply trying to become that cute little puppy in the window that you want to take home.

Well, one of these ads had a much bigger message, and it’s one I am not sure the bank even thought about.  In it, a bank employee talks about why she loves working for the bank much like the others, however, this employee says a few things that stuck with me.  In her vignette, she says she “loves to smile and make people happy, that’s her purpose, taking care of people.”  Now that probably doesn’t sound earthshaking to anyone but it got me thinking.

As Stephen Covey, the writer of the iconic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People explains in Habit 2, it is critical to success to begin just about any endeavor with the end in mind. In other words, when we have a good idea of what we want things to look like, we inevitably not only get it done, but we do it better.  This vision, this purpose, is a driver; it’s a shining star that leads to the goal.

Now that’s pretty fancy talk but this woman made it clear, she has a clear purpose for her life, she wants to take care of people and make them happy.  If she goes to work every day with that in mind, she knows her goal, and, at the end of the day, she knows whether she’s been successful or not. And what really struck me was the nobility encased in such simple thinking. In her simple way, she’s working to change the world, no, not starting a revolution to topple an evil empire, simply making life better for those she touches every day, for the people right next to her. It’s a simple purpose but a noble purpose.

So, what is yours, what’s your purpose, your end in mind?  What gets you out of bed every day?  How do you want to change the world?