Service: Farm raised or store bought

Last week, Linda and I had the great opportunity to visit Nashville… aka Music City, USA.  For ANY music lover, this is a must-visit destination.  We had a great time with some great friends, and of course my blogging brain could not rest – even on vacation!

Although geographically incorrect, I would say that Nashville is a little more “southern” than Central Florida.  The term “southern hospitality” is more alive there, and overall there seems to be a general genuineness to the service experience.  Case in point – Lyn at the Farm House Restaurant.

Lyn was the host who welcomed us, talked to us, made us laugh, gave us tips, and generally treated us like a member of the family.  She wasn’t afraid to come out from behind the host stand to make the interaction more personal, and even sat down on the bench right next to us.  It was a great start to our dining experience. Lyn is the type of person we’d all like representing our businesses.

Of course me being me, I wonder how this happens. Where does the desire and willingness to openly talk to people, welcome them, and treat perfect strangers as if they were long lost friends come from?

Most people I tell about Lyn agree that this behavior did NOT come from training.  I would concur.  I think Lyn believes in what she is doing, has the opportunity to do what makes her feel good, and probably has the support and freedom to be herself.  Maybe she needed to be trained on the procedures of the restaurant, but the service is genuine.  So genuine in fact, that I can’t really even call it service.  Service seems too cold of a description.  Hospitality?  I think that’s closer.

So what does it mean when a product is marketed as “farm raised”?  I think the advertisers are counting on an inherent feeling that anything raised on a farm is going to be more natural, wholesome, and just plain better for you than something produced in a factory sold in a store.  By comparison, farms are warm and inviting.  Stores can be cold and sterile.

Two questions then come up… where does YOUR service fall, and can you duplicate the Lyn’s of the world?  The first question you’ll have to answer on your own.

The second question is yes and no.  Yes, by hiring people who genuinely want to serve and help others and giving them the freedom to be themselves, you can allow someone to use their talents to represent your company well. But no, you will never duplicate Lyn or her behavior, because Lyn is unique and what she does works for her.

Often, though, that’s what we try to do.  We see Lyn doing all these great things and we say, “That’s our standard.  Let’s write it in a book and make everyone do what Lyn does”.  While that may work for some tasks and industries, it usually isn’t as effective when it comes to service.  Essentially, you’ve just homogenized your farm raised natural goodness, rather than letting someone else bring THEIR personality and talents to the table.

Your employees have natural talents – talents that may not have even been realized yet.  Your job as a leader is to let them use and develop their own talents and passions, so they will be a productive employee.

Don’t have time for that?   Do you have time to hire and train twice as many people to account for the turnover?  I’ll let you decide how you would rather spend your time.

Thanks for reading!

The world’s largest support group

While I have no hard data or extensive research to back this up, I recently realized that if we DID do that math, we would probably see that people who hate their job (or like to complain about their job, their co-workers, the weather and traffic) has to be the largest support group ever!

Which could explain why so many people remain at jobs they don’t like, instead of taking action to find something better.  All of the complaining is actually supported, and encouraged, by fellow employees.  It makes it all okay and oddly comforting – so we stay.  As humans, we tend to stick with something (a job, relationship or task) until the pain of staying the same outgrows the pain of changing.

Let’s break that down.  Is there pain (real or perceived) to changing?  You bet.  There is pain, fear and all sorts of unknown nastiness that is associated with change.  It’s only when the pain, fear and nastiness of staying the same is WORSE than the pain, fear and nastiness of changing, that we take action.

If we go back to our story, think about a “case of the Monday’s”. (If you haven’t seen Office Space, run, do not walk to your nearest Red Box or Netflix and put in the order!)  A case of the “Monday’s” was the accepted tag line for “being down in the dumps because you are back to work after a glorious (or even not-so-glorious) weekend.  Back to the grind stone, crack the whip, fun’s over!”

The more people buy into this, the more they are supporting the behavior, saying it’s okay to complain about being at work… saying it’s okay to be unhappy, miserable, and downright frumpy.

And that’s the people who actually don’t like their job.

Then there are the people who LIKE their job, but want to be supported too, so they find something complain about.  How crazy does that sound?  Yet is happens everyday.  Happy people complaining because according to their corporate culture, that’s what gets attention!!!

Well I say phooey on that.

Unfortunately, simply saying phooey isn’t going to change your company’s culture or the people around you.  We have to change the support group.

You can start by making small changes in the things that YOU support.  When there is a glimmer of positivity, a ray of light for good – praise it, recognize it, make it known that that is what you support.  After a while people will likely either join your support group or stop complaining around you.  At least you’ll know that you’ve done your part.

If neither of those things happen, and you just can’t stand the negativeness anymore, then maybe it’s time to find a different place to hang your hat.

The pain of staying the same just got worse than the pain of changing.

Thanks for reading!