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Be a nation!

DeMilleWhile directing the 1956 epic film The Ten Commandments, Cecil B. DeMille challenged a large group of extras portraying the Israelites to energize their performance, shouting, “Alright now. Give me everything you’ve got people! Don’t be extras. Be a nation!”

DeMille’s exhortation of the extras reminds me of the ongoing challenge facing service industry managers to motivate employees, many of whom regularly display their indifference by leaning, standing around, or simply going through the motions at work, treating each customer like the last customer. Their “performances” lack energy, passion, and commitment.

If this describes some portion of your staff, take action! While DeMille used a commanding presence and a megaphone to inspire his actors, service industry managers can motivate employees in other ways:

Model the behavioral standards that are expected of your frontline staff. Great service starts with great leadership. If you are in a leadership role, your credibility will match your consistency. What employees see is what you’ll get.

Treat employees fairly in relation to the basic conditions of employment. I watched an episode of Undercover Boss where a rogue supervisor docked employees two minutes for every minute they clocked in late returning from their lunch breaks. In one cafeteria scene, an employee abruptly ended her conversation and ran full speed in the direction of the time clock to avoid being penalized. This practice epitomizes unfair treatment and fosters unhealthy employee relations at work.

Recognize employees for contributions made to the business. One Gallup survey revealed that 65 percent of employees report receiving no recognition for their work in the previous year. If you are surprised by this finding, understand that saying an occasional, “Good job” doesn’t cut it. Employees deserve sincere and specific feedback from their immediate supervisors.

Encourage participation. Involve employees by actively seeking their input and ideas. Ask questions of employees and then listen to their responses. Stephen Covey termed the need to be listened to, to be understood, as “psychological air.” According to Covey, the highest level of listening is to listen with the intent to understand the other person. Most of us tend to do the opposite, seeking instead to be understood ourselves.

Create and manage an inclusive work environment based on respect and mutual trust where differences are valued, even celebrated. If left to chance, work groups tend to devolve into cliques whereby dysfunctional pecking orders are established by title, uniform, shift, department, and other factors.

While megaphones serve a purpose on a movie set, it’s insufficient to exhort staff without first providing a work environment that fosters engagement. By reinforcing the above principles, managers will create the conditions necessary for employees to shift from simply portraying dispassionate “extras” to becoming “a nationof enthusiastic service providers!

As a manager, how do you inspire top performance? Or, as a non-management employee, how are you best motivated to perform?

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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