When I was in college I worked as the receptionist for a health club. My boss, the owner, was a young guy who’d been a fitness buff and had the gumption to start his own business. I refer to him as young guy now. Back then, when I was eighteen and he was a ripe old thirty, a full-fledged grown up.
When he interviewed me for the job, he said, “I used to just hire the first decent person who showed up, but now, I interview lots of people. The receptionist is the first impression for our business. I need someone really good.”
He hired me for a one-week trial period. He said, “At the end of the week, we’ll review how you’ve done and decide if it’s going to work.” He gave me some training, told me to make the customers feel welcome, and put me at the front desk.
In hindsight, it was a pretty buttoned-up process for a small health club run by a thirty-year-old karate instructor. At the end of the week, we met in his office. He said, “You’re really good at this. I noticed you greeting people, remembering their names and calling out goodbye to them. You’re going to work out well.” I remember thinking at the time, “Great, I got the job!” But then I thought, “I didn’t know saying goodbye to people was that important. Sweh, I’m glad I did it. But if you wanted me to say that, you probably should have told me.”
I kept my comments to myself, and thankfully accepted the job.
I’ve reflected on that small experience many times since. My boss was a smart guy, and he worked hard to create a good client experience. For a guy without much experience beyond winning karate competitions he was smart businessperson. He went on to own other clubs and eventually sold to a national chain.
Yet he missed something many leaders do. He wasn’t specific about what good looks like. He told me to make customers feel welcome, but he didn’t tell me how to do it. I had to figure it out on my own. It’s easy to say, the right person knows how to do that. But how many people did he burn through before I showed up? Many of those people might have been really good with more direction.
As it was, after he told me saying goodbye was important, I made it a regular practice. I also figured out other ways to personalize the experience, and I wrote them all down so he could train the other receptionists.
Think about your team, have you shown them what good looks like? Have they seen clear specific examples of what top performance looks like in action? If not, your people probably aren’t as good as they could be.
It’s worth noting, my older daughter once worked for a large chain restaurant that required their hostesses to call out “See you tomorrow” as guests were leaving. AS if shouting out see you tomorrow would prompt the guest to return the following day for another plate of over priced chicken tenders.
Showing your team what good looks like only works if it’s actually good. Whether it’s your colleagues or your kids, take the time for training. Be specific. If you want people to deliver exceptional performance, show them what it looks like.