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How good managers keep their workers smiling

5 min read


This guest post is by Arte Nathan, a veteran HR professional with more than 30 years of practicing human resources, most of it as chief human resources officer for Golden Nugget and its successor companies, Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts.

I once had a colleague ask how we trained our employees to smile. I told him we didn’t. We hired the people who smiled during the interview, and then told them to just keep smiling when they worked.

Now here’s the story about what good managers can do to keep employees smiling.

Welcome employees — everyday!

Try to imagine being a new employee (again) for a day and realize what that’s like. Joining a new group of people or a new company is usually confusing and full of anxiety. Most of us don’t like change and this represents one of life’s bigger changes.

  • Give them a warm initial welcome.
  • Provide lots of information and printed materials. Make sure the answers to all their questions are easy to find and understand. Create FAQs about everything.
  • Say “good bye” and “thank you” when you’re done, always.
  • Let them take stuff with them, to read and absorb it when they can, and have it when and how and where they need it.

Follow the golden rule

Treating others the way you want to be treated is just plain good sense. It’s what we all learned growing up and there’s no reason not to practice this at work, everyday, in every way:

  • Set high standards for yourself and make sure you apply those standards to them.
  • You like getting as much information, in a friendly and relaxed environment, as you can get — so will they.
  • You want to be treated with respect and sensitivity — so will they.
  • You want to know how you’re doing and what’s really going on — so will they.
  • You want to feel comfortable — so will they.
  • You’ll want answers to your questions — so will they.

Explain “why”

Adults like to understand the big picture, to see how things fit together with everything else, to feel like they matter, to know that there’s a plan, to have a say in what’s going on. You can do all of that if you are always prepared to explain “why” you’re doing or asking something.

  • Be attentive, communicate well, articulate your thoughts understandably, listen to questions about what you just said, resolve conflicts and confusion, and respond appropriately — all the things effective managers are supposed to do that employees appreciate.
  • And if they appreciate you, they’ll follow you.
  • Remember: “People don’t care what you ask them to do as long as they know you care”.

Catch people doing things right

If you’ve hired the right people, told them in simple terms what you need them to do, trained them well and explained “why” – then get out of the way and let them do what they do.

  • If they meet or exceed your expectations, let them know! How often have you been in the situation where you’re doing what’s expected and nobody says anything? It’s disheartening.
  • Decide what you can and should you do to recognize those efforts (after all, isn’t that what you asked them to do?
  • Never ignore the behaviors you want repeated — start telling the people who meet or exceed your expectations how good they are and how much you appreciate their efforts.

Ask questions and really listen to the answers

The best people to ask about customer needs and preferences are your employees. They’re also the best ones to ask how you and your company can be better. They’re out there on the front line, so they should know.

  • Don’t say you don’t trust them. You hired them, so now you need to listen to them and use their experience to make things as good as they need to be.
  • Give them the tools they need to do what’s expected — everybody’s okay with doing more with less; most won’t put up with doing it with nothing.

Be fair

  • Forget consistent — unless two separate circumstances are identical, consistency is far less important than fairness.
  • “Play the face.” One of the old-school casino hosts that I learned from told me this.  It means you look someone in the eye and use your experience, common sense and judgment to do what’s right. In the end, that’s all anyone asks for and can expect. Done right, this promotes trust and respect.

Sounds like a lot, but it’s not! In reality it’s just about following the Golden Rule,  and if people feel like you are — every day and in every way — they’ll smile.

Image credit, nullplus, via iStockPhoto

<em>This guest post is by <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Arte Nathan</a>, a veteran HR professional with more than 25 years experience working in the hospitality industry.</em>