Help Others and Share!

Leading With the Heart…

Some of the best performers that I’ve had the pleasure of observing have been front line employees who, while lacking the job title, nonetheless demonstrate their strong leadership skills, often unaware that they are even doing so.

Take for example a young cashier I observed at a local supermarket.  I watched in awe as she interacted with an elderly gentleman.  It was clear that she loved her job as she happily rang up his groceries while chatting cheerfully and making him feel as if he was her most important customer…which he was!  I marveled at her compassion and kindness as she carefully loaded each and every bag into his grocery cart, a task that was generally left for the customer.  As he pushed his cart away and began his slow exit, she ran to hand him his forgotten receipt, exchanging a final warm goodbye in the process.

As she greeted me with a similar cheerful hello, I shared how impressed I was with her service.

She then spoke to me in glowing terms about another favorite, shy elderly customer who, despite never saying a word, received similar star treatment, including a big hug whenever she spotted him.   Despite her young age, she displayed a motherly attitude towards these grandfatherly figures, declaring that if anyone were to give them a hard time, they would have to answer to her.

I don’t know if her manager or co-workers have ever acknowledged her skill at making every customer feel like a VIP. It would be hard not to notice.  But I can pretty much guarantee that she has never been asked to lead a morning “huddle” on how to build relationships with customers so they keep coming back. Or how creating a superior customer experience can help distinguish them from the lower priced superstore less than a mile away, along with 2 other competing chain stores another half a mile down the road.

Whether management or this skilled employee realize it or not, she is providing the strongest leadership of all…leading by example. Acknowledging her performance at staff meetings lets other employees know that you’re paying attention.  Equally important, it lets employees know the behavior you wish to replicate.

Any time I come across such superstars, I ask this one question—why are you so good at what you do?  I want to know their secret.  And I want to share it with others.  Who better to teach such skills than the person that so competently demonstrates them, day after day.

Consider providing your stars with the opportunity to share their knowledge and service mindset with others, in huddles or staff meetings.  Often, employees are more receptive to a co-worker than an “out of touch” manager that may not understand their challenges.  It also has the added advantage of elevating the superstar employee to that of a role model for others to observe and turn to for guidance and inspiration.  It may also be an important first step in preparing these superstars to potentially take on a larger role.

You don’t need a title to lead.  Recognizing star performance, whether as a manager, a peer or a customer…and acknowledging it is the surest means of cultivating it in others. With any luck, it will spread like wildfire throughout workforces everywhere.