It happened one busy Saturday morning many years ago. My son and I had stopped at Canadian Superstore to buy something. We knew exactly what we wanted, and once we found our bearings in the huge store, we headed straight there. Total male thing, totally focussed shopping!
Then I noticed something. People were noticeably friendlier than normal. We were met with many a smile and one or two complete strangers even said a friendly, "Hi!". With every passing aisle, I was getting more and more puzzled.
It could not be that the weather was causing this. It was certainly not a sunny Spring day outside! To tell the truth, it was one of those miserable Vancouver drizzle days, enough to make you feel depressed, the total opposite of what I was experiencing.
Then I noticed something: On more than one occasion my son would be the first to greet. I started watching him, and yes, the positivity started with him! What a great and pleasant surprise.
"It's simple, Dad," he explained. "They taught us at Canadian Tire," (where he worked after school) "that whenever you are on the floor, you need to connect with the customers. When someone is within a few steps from you, you make eye contact and you smile. This means that you are there for them and can help them find what they are looking for."
How simple and how effective. To say that I was a proud dad in that moment is an understatement. Here my son was showing me the way!
"It also helps for sales, Dad," he added with that knowing teenager look. "The figures showed that."
How smart is that from the Canadian Tire leadership. We all want to be recognised. We all want to feel connected. Here is a time when the customer is searching for answers; in need of help, feeling perhaps a little vulnerable. Not only does this policy instill great life skills in their young employees, it also drives sales. If the item is somewhere in the store, the customer will not leave without it. The personal contact also opens up the door for upselling. There may now be opportunity for additional sales. The customers feel supported by these young persons, who obviously know what they are doing, who can help them find that other items that they either could not find before or did not have the time to find. It's a win-win all around.
We can take this lesson straight to our places of work. When I was the CEO of a busy trucking company it was one of the prime tools I used to recognise the truck drivers when they arrived at headquarters. They were greeted with eye contact, a smile and wave, and when they came close, by greeting them by name. It became something that differentiated the company from the competition where the drivers were treated as numbers. We even had a Photo Name list of all employees, so that everyone could greet everyone else by name! As CEO, I drove that process.
How can you apply this simple but powerful lesson from my son? How can it help you take yourself, your career or your company to the next level?
Sometimes leadership lessons come from the most unexpected places. We just need to recognize them.