A colleague shared a story with me recently that spoke to the benefit of a simple change of mindset. Her young daughter was shy, a little awkward, and really struggled in elementary school. The little girl found it hard to make friends and often came home looking downcast. With all the love in a mother’s heart, she wrapped her daughter up in a warm hug and asked, “What’s wrong honey? Did you have a bad day?” Some version of this same event played out again and again.
Over time, the mother realized that she was feeding into her daughter the practice of labeling a whole day as bad based on a few poor experiences. Determined to shift the perspective, the mother changed the narrative. Every night at dinner she asked each of her children, “What were the lows and highs of your day?” The difficulties didn’t magically disappear, but they learned together to acknowledge the low notes then move on to consider the good. Without even realizing it, not only did dinners end on a better note, but the whole family began to tag the highs, unexpected moments, and joyful experiences throughout the day eager to share them every night.
The mother in this story was on to something that I think we can translate into our industry and take the concept a few steps forward. What if we moved beyond focusing just on what went right or wrong about the day, week, month, or year, and instead noted the unexpected? And from there, what if we moved on to the practice of intentionally creating moments that surprise and delight?
What might our culture become if we engaged every day with the intent to generate joyful experiences? We are hardly first to the concept of ‘surprise & delight’ with respect to our customers. Forbes recently published an article on that subject in which they offer 15 ideas for deepening customer relationships through the unexpected.
My philosophy is Team Member First – Always. I believe that if we pour love, respect, encouragement, and moments of unexpected cheer into our team members, they in turn will deliver on and exceed our brand promises to our customers. Thus, the ‘surprise and delight’ movement starts internally. I encourage you to consider how you might shift your mindset, policies, disciplines, or routines to generate surprisingly engaging moments that influence your team members’ behavior. This TikTok user explains how they include an S&D line item in their budget, and he even gave a shout-out to a personal favorite of mine, Gary Vaynerchuk. While this TikTok video is customer-centric, I love the practice of having Surprise & Delight as a budget line item to benefit team members and customers.
Joy-filled team members create joyful customer experiences. A simple change of mindset that changes everything.
What are your surprise and delight stories? I encourage you to share them below.
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As we approach the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, it is impossible to overstate one event’s changes in terms of security. Remember the days when you could meet a traveler at the gate? When there was no 3oz limit or quart size Ziploc bag as part of the airport process? Me, too.
The marriage of security and technology has upped the ante even further. Passwords, thumbprint, facial recognition – it all seems like we might be living in a rather mundane James Bond film – minus the Bond guy, of course. For every new layer of security, bad actors are seeking out ways to undermine them. Enter two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor (MFA) authentication methods. Designed to grant access to a website or application only after the user successfully presents two or more pieces of evidence (factors) to an authentication mechanism – proving that we are who we say we are. For example: Want to log in to your bank account? You will need your password, followed by a one-time code sent to your cell phone or email. This extra layer protects your info even if someone has managed to steal your password. Annoying? Sometimes. Necessary? Increasingly so.
Beyond technological security, two-factor authentication brings to my mind who we are as individuals and the unique work we produce. Every team member comes equipped with their specific knowledge, experience, and training coupled with their character, ambition, and commitment. As businesses, we are responsible for creating environments that support the people who offer their labor to pursue our business venture. These two authentication factors represent the self and the work. When these two factors are in alignment – when we as individuals and as organizations are who we say we are – then the result of our labor is a better outcome for our customers, partners, and each other.
We have a calling to ask the same question of ourselves as individuals and as leaders – Are we who we say we are?
Over the last several decades, Sesame Street laid the foundation on many topics for children and their grown-ups. The song “Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?” is catchy enough that many parents probably know the words to the chorus off the top of their heads. It reminds us that the people in our neighborhood – the grocer, the doctor, fireman, postman, etc. – are the people we meet each day. But how often do we make an effort to greet and get to know those people in the background of our daily lives?
My morning routine is predictable and includes time for hydration, reflection, prayer, journaling, and exercise. I am a runner. Before covid, I ran on the treadmill at the gym. Now, I run around my neighborhood. I begin my run in the pre-dawn hours, so dark I can’t see the sidewalk beneath my feet. I greet the sunrise most days while putting in the reps that sharpen my focus and keep me feeling healthy and sane.
During my daily run, I noticed a man walking around our neighborhood 3-4 times a week, purposely, diligently, step by step, working his exercise plan. I took note of his features and saw that he carries with him a small bat tucked into the palm of his hand and ending at his elbow , and he wears a reflective vest, the kind that can be seen from far away in the headlight of any vehicle passing by at that time of day. I wondered if he carried the bat for personal protection.
Whenever I saw him, I lifted my hand in a small wave of acknowledgment. It buoyed my spirits to see him , and over time, my small gesture turned into a more significant two-handed wave. As I ran past him from behind, I called out, “On your left!” not wanting to startle him and hoping he heard my voice over whatever played on his earbuds. In my mind, I wrote a story about who he was and wondered if maybe we had more in common than a shared appreciation for exercise and greeting the daybreak.
Today, it was on my heart to introduce myself, and so I did. I said that I look forward to seeing him every day when I run. He asked me how many miles I run and told him, then he shared that he walks to work out his frustrations and to keep stress at bay. I told him how inspired I am by his dedication. We chatted a little longer and then went our separate ways.
Today, I met Ken!
I am thankful that I did. No longer a nameless stranger, Ken became more real to me today. Our interaction was just a few minutes long, but it was enough to turn two strangers into something a little bit more.
As we go about our daily lives, there are countless opportunities to engage with people more genuinely. I encourage you to go out and meet your Ken today.
Share your stories with us in the comments below!