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Saturday, May 01, 2010
Volume 15 | # 359
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If you come to your boss early with a problem, you get a partner. If you come later with a disaster, you get a judge. » Danny Cox

An Effective Lobbyist

After my favorite coffee house closed, I found myself looking for another place to get a latte while trying to string together semi-intelligible paragraphs on weekend mornings.

My new coffee spot gives me flashbacks. It’s a large supermarket with a coffee kiosk and a café. The constant buzz of a busy store provides a familiar soundtrack that reminds me of my branch manager days.

My usual table puts me a few feet from the front door and in position to observe folks. One guy in particular has made an impression.

He’s one of the store’s assistant managers, and he’s a one-man meeting and greeting, merchandizing, customer service department.

I’ve contemplated videoing the guy to show in-store and traditional branch managers a great example of “lobby management.”

I’ve seen him walk out and then back into the store to see what catches his eye and then move a table over a few feet or change the angle of a display. When items are purchased, he’ll quickly refresh a display. And he is continuously picking up the small pieces of paper and assorted junk that naturally accumulates in busy walkways.

All the while, he seemingly acknowledges every customer coming and going. It’s obvious that many are regulars, as they make small talk or apparently share some recurring joke.

Many stop and chat for a minute or two. Other shoppers appear to be more preoccupied, but 90% of them respond with a smile and/or pleasantry when he welcomes them or wishes them a great day on their way out.

I’ve also seen many shoppers walk out of their way to find him and ask if the store carries certain items. Without fail, he happily escorts them to whichever department the items are located.

This week, he noticed me and asked what I was working on. I mentioned that I work with banks, and he immediately gave me a 60-second synopsis of why a bank branch in that same store had recently closed.

He was amazed by their limited hours, limited staff, and apparently limited enthusiasm about actually interacting with customers.

I laughed and said, “I wish you would have trained them.”

He replied, “Buddy, I would have if they’d have let me. It ain’t hard. It’s all about getting to know the people who walk through that door.”

Those are true words of wisdom. Is your team going to get to know a few new folks today?

A Healthy Dose of Laughter

I recently came across new research on a subject that I’ve preached about for the better part of 15 years. That subject is an incredible management/motivational/marketing tool known as “laughter.” You may have heard of it.

This particular research was conducted by Dr Lee Berk. His studies demonstrated how laughter enhances mood, reduces stress hormones, boosts immune systems, and lowers blood pressure and levels of “bad” cholesterol.

My point to managers is not that laughter improves their health, but it almost always improves the health of a work environment.

One of my longest running rants is that I find it amazing that the phrase “Get to work” has become synonymous with “Stop having fun.” If you doubt that, walk into any place of business – be it a bank branch or donut shop – and if you see employees laughing, simply say, “Hey, get to work!” Without fail, they immediately know that means to stop laughing.

I remember a conversation a while back in which a middle manager was marveling that several of her “sillier” (her term) managers were some of her top producers. She seemed just a bit surprised.

I told her, “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” I believed their senses of humor and laugh-at-themselves personalities played a role in keeping their teams upbeat and their customers engaged.

In fact, it’s been my experience that insecure people don’t have much of a sense of humor about themselves. But folks who are comfortable in their own skins and confident in their abilities are secure enough to laugh frequently, even at themselves.

That doesn’t mean we need to replace sales training and coaching manuals with joke books. Often times, the best way for a manager to “add humor” to his work environment is to simply lead by example.

You don’t have to be the generator of humor, just the facilitator of it. Allow it to occur.

Look for things to smile and laugh about. Depending on your surroundings, you usually don’t have to look very hard, now do you?

Possibly the most important effect, however, is the impact on customers. Across all cultures, smiles and laughter are universally magnetic. (Maybe we’re subconsciously drawn to the health benefits of it.)

Regardless of why, it’s some of the most effective “marketing” possible. So, go ahead. Laugh it up.

It’s seriously good for your business.

A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It's jolted by every pebble in the road. » Henry Ward Beecher

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