This week I collected a beautiful elm coffee table that was made especially for me by a gifted carpenter called Jim. I am tired of mass produced furniture and have developed a bit of an obsession for the old and secondhand. My home is a mishmash of weird, eclectic and interesting pieces so when a friend of mine told me that her husband is a carpenter, I couldn’t resist commissioning him to create a coffee table. From the first moment I met Jim he exuded a calm energy and I instantly felt that anything he made would be crafted with real dedication and would be a labour of love. I was right. Jim chose the wood himself and several emails were exchanged to check various tiny details that I hadn’t realised were so important to the table’s overall look and feel. It was an education.
A week ago it was officially ready to come and live with me. I can’t stop looking at it with a soporific smile on my face. This piece of furniture feels incredibly precious. The detail, the craftsmanship, the dimensions – there is even a natural shape of an angel in the grain of the wood! So as an extremely satisfied customer I have become a true champion of Jim’s work.
Sometimes as organisations grow it can be difficult to instil each employee with the values that the business has built its success upon. When Jim worked on producing my table he worked with heart and soul showing a true passion for the work he was doing. As businesses continually strive to grow, evolve and improve the way they do business, a metric of customer satisfaction has emerged – Net Promoter Score. Many of you are already aware that this measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or service. So whilst Jim would almost certainly receive a 10 out of 10 from me, (I’m an enthusiastic evangelist about Jim’s work), how easy is it for organisations to embed Jim’s level of passion for his work into their hundreds or even thousands of employees?
Regardless of the processes organisations implement, engagement, a sense of purpose and a commitment to deliver excellence are emotional responses. Most people are instinctively driven to make decisions based on their emotions and then use their mind to work out the how rather than the why. If a task, a job or a career does not contain personal meaning or a sense of strong purpose then we activate our inner zombie and start operating on auto pilot. Without meaning or purpose we disconnect emotionally and hand over our power to our mind – the place that seeks to control and dominate your every thought.
How often have you found yourself doing something that was mind numbingly boring? How many times have you been beavering away on a task whilst a little voice inside your head is questioning “what’s the point?” How many nights have you awoken in the early hours feeling anxious about your job or stressing about things you need to do? Everyday millions of employees worldwide are going through the motions and doing what they need to do to receive their monthly pay check. How do you inject a sense of passion and purpose into the hearts and minds of people who find themselves on a hamster wheel – too busy to even pause and reflect about how they are feeling or why they are choosing to do this. Opting for going round and round instead of upwards and onwards.
If employees have forgotten how it feels to have passion and desire they unwittingly inject their emotional greyness into the energy of their organisation. This contaminates their internal and external customers with a sense of apathy at best or toxicity at worst. You can’t teach customer service excellence unless you turn on the heart of the entire workforce. When employees are tuned into their emotions they find it easy to tune into other people’s emotions, including their customers’ emotions.
I have just had a meeting with an organisation who attained an impressive 80 per cent Net Promoter Score in 2014 (source: Retail Banker International October 2014) and are way out in front of all the other financial institutions. Julie Barnsley, Head of Commercial Deposits for Metro Bank passionately shared “We hire for attitude and train for skill” – as just one of the reasons behind the bank’s phenomenal success in such a relatively short time. The energy on the busy banking floor in the Holborn Branch was fresh and lively with magic money counters (free service to everyone including non Metro customers), dog biscuits (pets are part of the family) and lollipops for children (or adults who are young at heart).
Vernon W. Hill II is the brain behind this fast growing bank that likens itself to a retailer first who wants raving fans not customers. He has turned the traditional banking model on its head as he encourages staff to surprise and delight. Julie told me about when a member of the customer service team ordered and paid for a cab for a couple who had just opened an account on their way to the theatre. Another story of flowers given to a man for his wife’s birthday. The energy of Vernon’s vision has been cascaded through to the heart of the organisation. Having sat spellbound by Julie for an hour I’ve made a ‘note to self’ to open an account with Metro.
Innovation, passion and purpose combined with the freedom to delight and surprise has created a truly engaged workforce who simply love their job and are attracting fans in their droves. So if you are interested in learning how to create growth in a no growth world buy the book – Fans not Customers – because like its author (Vernon) it’s packed with passion and enthusiasm spills from every page. It also helps that Vernon happens to be very authentic and charismatic. He appears to have effortlessly won the hearts and minds of his employees, stakeholders, investors and the British public. Everyone appears to genuinely love and admire him. He is doing to banking what Richard Branson did and is continuing to do to transatlantic travel.
When we do the best we can with what we’ve got and we do it with positive intent we energise the object or person at the receiving end of our attention ( this is why being really present with your partner is so important). I read about Buddhist monks who send love to chocolate and it tastes out of this world (see their website). If you speak kindly to plants they’ll grow more quickly – ask Prince Charles or Matthew Bent, owner of Bents Garden Centre who conducted The Great Plant Experiment. When children grow up in an environment of love and encouragement they thrive and their sense of self worth strengthens every year. If you lavish people with heart-felt attention they feel incredibly special – it’s not rocket science it’s just good old fashioned service with a smile.
The environment, the culture and the ethos of an organisation either sabotages or supports the growth of its people. Happy people perform better, achieve more and spread a positive emotional contagion to everyone they meet.
Inspired by Jim and Vernon I decided to spread some positivity by surprising and delighting 10 people and here is what I did:
- Chatted to Wayne a really lovely homeless guy who I sat next to in Holborn – he usually feels invisible
- Gave up my seat on the train to a woman who was half my age but looked really exhausted. I just said “please take my seat you look like you’ve had a tough day”
- Left a message on the windscreen of my neighbour’s car that read ‘have a nice day’ with a big yellow smiling face!
- Praised the car park attendant at West Malling Station for the flowers he plants and nurtures all year round to give some colour to the commuters who bravely brace themselves for another daily squashed journey to the capital.
- Sent a text to a friend of mine who is going through a tough time, telling her all the reasons why I appreciate her friendship
- Tidied my twenty year old daughter’s room so she can enjoy her return from holiday (this really was a labour of love especially in these recent hot temperatures!!!)
- Polished my new table again and really enjoyed looking at the beautiful grain in the wood (this made me feel good and the wood certainly gleamed its appreciation back to me).
- Gave Mindy (my Yorkshire Terrier) 20 minutes of tummy tickling – she looked as if she was in some heavenly place with glazed eyes and tongue hanging out
- As a Reiki Master I sent positive intentions of love and healing to a friend of mine who has just had an operation (hope you felt the positive vibes Tammy)
- Sent one of my meditations to a couple of clients, who feel very stressed at the moment due to lots of organisational restructuring, with an email – hope this helps.
I must confess I feel the glow of giving without expectation of receiving anything back and some people appeared genuinely affected by by gestures. Even though my daily work talks about being mindful, present and positive this exercise really affirmed why it’s so important.
So crank up the music, loosen your tie or kick off your heels and ask yourself this question “what actions can I take today that will cause 10 people to smile?” If we all set this as a daily intention can you imagine how much love we can collaboratively create in this world.
Have a wonderful day!