When you work with your team – particularly your front line team – you should act as though you are engaging directly with the customer. The reason is simple, but complicated all the same. The best way to describe this relationship is reflective – but not necessarily as you would see in your standard looking glass. Think more of a fun house mirror. What you see is sort of what you would expect, but there is always a varying degree of distortion.
There are some employees that are so fantastic and self sufficient that they barely need you at all. Give them the tools they need, make sure they know they are appreciated, and get out of their way. There are also fantastic employees who need a lot of hand holding and attention. In many ways some of our most amazing folks can be the neediest….and that’s okay. If a dynamite person who takes great care of the customer needs a little coddling from time to time then so what. If that’s what it takes to make sure your guests receive great service, then it’s a bargain at twice the price.
So the ask is clear. Be sure that you are treating folks the way you would want them to treat your customers. You might be thinking: Shouldn’t I treat people the way I would want to be treated?
Don’t get me wrong, the golden rule is great. But who cares how you want to be treated. Most leaders have a deflated need for care and praise since they have been conditioned by terrible managers that such things aren’t necessary. If that is allowed to permeate your work atmosphere it can be catastrophic for morale.
Even if, as a leader, you have no need for recognition or thanks, please don’t let that be an excuse not to praise your team. There still exists this idea that if we praise too often then we will make it less “special” to our teams. Poppycock. Yes, I chose to use an old phrase for an outdated idea. The best part about recognition and praise is that it is infectious and simply inspires more. And that is why you cannot leave your leaders out of this equation. I’ll admit it freely – I am a leader in my organization and I like hearing I did something right. I enjoy being thanked for good work, and I also find that recognition makes me want to work harder to get more of it. I would bet if most folks were honest – regardless of their role or place on the org chart – they would say that they like to be recognized for a job well done. So don’t be afraid to call out your colleagues and your leaders for doing well; that is just another way you can contribute to a fantastic atmosphere of celebration.
So go ahead – get out there and recognize. Now don’t get me wrong, don’t make up success for the sake of giving praise. If folks aren’t getting the job done, you have to level with them and coach them to success. You aren’t doing them any favors by glossing over poor execution or lousy customer service; plus you are doing your guests a real disservice. But when folks genuinely do well stop and say so.
To be sure you have the most impact follow these steps:
Praise should be in the moment – don’t wait if at all possible. That psychological stickiness of attaching the deed to the words can be lost if too much time elapses.
Be specific. Tell your team member exactly what they did well and why it had such impact.
Don’t wait for something earth shattering. Those huge moments don’t come along all the time and if you are going to drive a culture of recognition, you have to celebrate the small wins as well.
Skew to the positive. Your front line teams are much more likely to correct performance issues if you also seek out the positives. This doesn’t mean you should embrace the compliment sandwich (tell them something good, then something bad, then something good), but rather don’t just make the effort to engage only when you have an issue. Embrace a preponderance of good and shoot for at least a 3:1 ratio.
Understand how your folks like to be recognized. Some of your team would rather have their moment in private and others like an audience – learn this quickly and manage accordingly.
So take some time to craft a plan to ramp up your recognition. Remember that your front line teams will translate your positive energy to your customers. Let’s face it, delivering friendly, consistent, and often epic service is what we all seek, and this is another way to inspire that spirit of service.
Best wishes, Tony Johnson