Management expert Ken Blanchard recalls a time when he conducted a sales seminar for a grocery market chain. During his training he challenged participants to “put your personal signature on something you do in order to make customers feel special so they will want to come back”.
Participants jotted this notation in their notebooks thinking it a good principle to remember. But Johnny, a nineteen year old grocery store bagger with Down syndrome was uncertain that his personal signature would make much of an impact.
He understood how the store manager’s impact could be great. She could make corporate decisions, offer special promotions and decide which charities to support. Johnny also understood how the cashiers who bantered cheerfully with customers could make a difference. But what impact could he have as he packaged groceries? Most people barely noticed him.
But Johnny couldn’t escape Blanchard’s challenge to place your personal signature on the job you’ve been given to do. So, determined to add value to others and do more than just offer a friendly smile, he put a plan into action.
That night he went to the computer and found various sayings that he liked. Collecting several, he made multiple copies and with the help of his dad cut them into slips to stuff into his customers’ shopping bags. Every day as he arranged the groceries, he slipped his signed quotations into the bags. On the days he couldn’t find just the right saying, he made up his own. Before long people usually in a hurry to get their groceries and go home started to line up at the till to which he was assigned. Some who previously shopped weekly, now came on a daily basis.
When the store manager attempted to direct customers to less crowded registers, people refused to move. Even when the line stretched deep into the aisles, people were willing to wait. No one griped about how long things were taking. Getting Johnny’s message was worth waiting for.
Before long other employees found their own personal signatures to add value to others. Instead of directing customers to hard-to-find products, they led them to where they were located. Instead of watching a woman struggle with an overcrowded basket, they brought a shopping cart to ease the load. Flowers with broken stems were now saved as boutonnieres to pin on unsuspecting customers. At the end of the day, employees had energy to spare. Customers who entered the store after a long, difficult day, left with refreshed perspectives.
All this began because Johnny, whose voice would never be heard in the boardroom or in a marketing brainstorming session had a simple idea. Be a difference maker. Give from a sincere heart so others will benefit.
Johnny has much to teach us about personal wellness. But it would be wrong to merely try to copy his strategies and implement his techniques.
Johnny’s workplace wasn’t changed because of a strategy. It was changed because he found that his personal fingerprint communicated a purpose bigger than bagging groceries. His gift also gave people a deepened understanding that impact occurs when we see our purpose through a lens that has been properly focused.
When Johnny first stepped out, his sphere of influence was small – himself. He needed a changed understanding of the contributions he could make. As he did his small part, his influence circle grew, in time extending far beyond a groceteria’s checkout line. His personal wellness grew contributing to a community’s wellness.
Wellness increases when we communicate value and appreciation to those around us. It’s not merely about what we do – those things are just tasks. It’s more about why we do it – that is about purpose and attitude.
Those oriented to strategies can think of personal wellness as a new exercise regime, a renewed commitment to better nutrition or the institution of a new policy. Resolutions to read more books and engage in more activities help us accomplish pre-determined goals. All those things contribute to wellness but better than all those is our active engagement to be a value giver to others. Being an intentional value giver changes our actions and our outlook. If value is authentically felt and acknowledged, watch how the world around you can change.
Make no mistake – value doesn’t operate in silence. It must be expressed! When it is, the culture of an organization changes and a climate of wellness grows. Organizations that ignore this do it to their peril. According to one study, four of the top five reasons people leave their place of employment is that they didn’t feel that their contributions were valued and acknowledged. Simply put, these organizations know little about a culture of wellness and they pay a high price as a result.
Finding ways to authentically communicate value and express genuine appreciation for people’s contributions is essential. Value sincerely given spills into all that we do. Our perspectives broaden. Our attitudes change. Our energies increase.
But when efforts aren’t authentic, watch out! Don’t confuse method with purpose. Gifts and incentives, back slapping, and achievement pins are often seen as manipulative strategies that accomplish corporate goals at the expense of personal loyalties.
There are many things you can’t control. You can’t control whether someone chooses to give expressions of value that should have been said. But remember, personal wellness begins with you. Give what is in your power to give. No matter what you have or haven’t been given, you can determine what you can give. When you do, everyone gains.
And when you are tempted not to believe it, think of Johnny. He didn’t sit around demanding that others give value to him. He just did what he knew what was right to do.
We could passively wait, wishing for a Johnny to come into our world. Then again, perhaps you are that Johnny for whom others have been waiting. Try being a value giver and just see what will happen.
by Rob Inrig
Copyright © 2011 www.RobInrig.com. All Rights Reserved.
I welcome your feedback as well as your observations about servant leadership that adds value to others and the lessons you have learned. Submissions are made with the understanding that they may be freely and without obligation be used in any future publications by Rob Inrig.