As I have done on quite a few occasions over the years, I recently took a new Gitman Bros. dress shirt out of the bag. As I was removing the pins from the shirt, two things struck me almost simultaneously. 1) A little printed tag indicating that my shirt had been “Pressed By NO. 8” was conspicuously pinned to the shirt, and 2) The shirt seemed unduly and unusually wrinkled for something that had supposedly been pressed and then carefully folded. A look thru the rest of my suitcase (I was on a business trip) offered a clue as to the likely source of the wrinkles. It appears likely that the TSA might have had some fun with the bag as it passed thru “security.”
But I was stuck on the first item. Who is “NO. 8”? Is NO. 8 a person, a machine, or simply a tool of Gitman’s marketing folks who want me to believe that some extra care went into their product? Actually, I already believe the “extra care” part because they are fine, well made (in the U.S. no less) shirts.
Alright, let’s get to the larger point. In an age of mass customization (e.g., how many thousand combinations and permutations are there for a Starbucks coffee beverage?) why don’t we make better use of opportunities to let our people ‘sign’ their work?
A person doesn’t have to be an artist, author, musician, or gang member to want to take personal credit for their work. Throughout much of recorded history, builders have customarily placed a “corner stone” as a reference and billboard in their buildings, bridges, and other projects. Unlike their counterparts whose name badges always seem to be hanging backwards to assure anonymity, smart restaurant servers and bartenders are quick to introduce themselves and thus take credit for the experience you are about to have. They evidence considerably greater pride in their work, and I promise you, they make more money, as do their employers.
When people are allowed/required to “sign their work” it makes a significant difference both in the quality of the work and the person’s willingness to “own” it. Indeed, the Marriott hotel where I was staying when I got the wrinkled shirt allowed (required?) housekeepers to leave a short handwritten, signed note for each guest in the room, every day. Call me a sucker, but when someone named Mathilde leaves a note advising me that it has been her pleasure to refresh and restore the room, that matters, to me, and ultimately to Mathilde via more generous tips. It matters even more on those occasions when she and I have a chance meeting in the hallway and she asks if I’d like extra towels or anything else for the room. My perception of the guest experience goes up, as does Mathilde’s income. Ca-ching. And, by the way, it leaves a better taste in my mouth than the “Envelope Please” program that Marriott recently kicked off.
So what about your team? How can you up your game by having more signature work?
- Start by hiring only those people who evidence pride in what they do. You can hear it in their voice, notice it in their speech (if you’re listening), and see it in their step. Ask them in an interview what their level of work pride is on a 1-10 scale, then have them offer specifics on how (and when) that has played out for customers and employers. Are they speaking confidently or fumbling with words when they answer?
- Give people more opportunity to own their work. Give them public credit, introduce them to others who might be beneficial to them, and let more of their work “shine” by having primary ownership. Make it a point to let your teammates know that, whenever possible, you will not rebrand their work as a departmental effort.
- Be quicker to coach or remove those who persistently fail to take responsibility for their work.
Now, as for the folks at Gitman, please tell me who or what NO. 8 is.
A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter @ContentedCows.