Give people more than you think is necessary

So, what does this picture have to do with an article in a hotel magazine?

Unexpected. Right? It grabs your attention, and you probably say “ahhhh” whether you are sighing for the puppy or the wine.

Contributed by Nanci Sherman, Dare To Be Exceptional, Denver, Colorado

The reason I refer to this photo is it brings out emotion—a positive reaction. Human beings are walking bags of emotion. We buy with our emotions. We return to places that make us happy. When you can bring that out in someone, you change their brain chemistry and you become unforgettable. Simply, emotion sells.

Mid-career, I changed my title from general manager (suggesting I don’t do anything well specifically) to chief happiness officer (CHO). I woke up every day clear of the results I was after that day. How can I make my staff happy? What does my boss want from me? How can I get 5-star reviews from every guest? How do I make my husband thrilled he married me? It is a good formula for success.

I worked for a company that recruited me to turn around a hotel in Atlanta that was seriously underperforming. Nine months later, Marriott approached us to be the second hotel in the nascent Autograph Collection. I spent some time at Marriott International headquarters to learn about their systems and culture. The person then heading up Autograph looked at my business card, laughed in my face, and joked about it with anyone he could find to share that I was the chief happiness officer.

Three months later, we outperformed all 14 Marriott hotels in the city. I believe the reason Marriott sought to “outsource” a boutique collection is that their culture is so ingrained in “how we do things around here,” that they couldn’t envision what it would take to operate lifestyle hotels. That was a good move on their part.

So how do you make people happy? You acknowledge them and thank them more than your comp set does.

Guests. Personalize their visit. Turn “arrival” into a welcome ritual. What can you do differently to impress the guest?

Teach your staff how to remember people’s names.

Notice people. Compliment them on a piece of jewelry, a hat, a tie, or a purse. People add accouterment for a reason.

Go nuts over their baby and their dog.

To be outstanding, first you must stand out. Inoculate yourself against the “benchmark flu.” If everyone in the industry is sharing best practices and mimicking others, there is not a lot of new thinking going on. The most important meeting you can have is not about rehashing old numbers, but brainstorming how to get the top position on the social media charts.

Handle breakdowns immediately and make up for them extraordinarily.

Set up systems for daily acknowledgment of staff. We are so busy it is the last thing on our minds. Write it into your calendar.

Create community. Hang a board in the break room where they can post pictures of their pet or art their children make.

Create a suggestion box that gets answered and posted every week.

Award innovation.

Find ways to celebrate outside the “same old, same old.” Make up a client holiday. Do you think you will stand out with a holiday card?

Create an experienced team that looks for ways to improve happiness.

Write experiences and the “why” into your SOPs.

My end game as a GM or a CHO was to capture more out of the market share pie than my comp set because that is the holy grail of hotel success, the gold in the hotel Olympics.

Happiness is the greatest business strategy for profitability there is, not to mention bringing much-needed kindness into the world.

What you appreciate appreciates.