Catch them doing something right: The SeaTac Marriott story

In stark contrast to its often dreary weather, the people of Seattle generally have a sunny disposition, and nowhere do you see friendliness and cheer more than in the SeaTac Marriott.  Everyone’s in a good mood at this hotel, not just the staff.  Late in the week the road warriors stay there before the morning’s flight home, so the general mood is upbeat and convivial.

On today’s Fable Friday I’ll share a story with you of my most recent stay there in May. I finished my work earlier in the day, drove to the hotel and went down to the restaurant to eat my dinner.  I ordered a beer at the bar and in response to the young bartender’s question about how my day was going, I replied that all was well, except that I didn’t have a crossword puzzle to do.

Let me go off on a tangent here.  I hate the idea of being one of those losers who sits at a bar staring at his phone and texting, so whenever I eat alone I have with me a Sunday NY Times Magazine so I can do the puzzle.  Except that this day I forgot to bring one.  So the guy leaves to wait on someone else and a few minutes later back he comes with the NY Times. He had run out to the gift shop to buy me a newspaper.  “I hope this helps,” he said.

Well, it sure did!  This was a Friday, and the Friday Times puzzle is the 2nd hardest of the week, so I had plenty to keep me occupied. I said to him, “You just hit the jackpot because I’m going to write to your boss,” and I did.

Now Jeff Hart is a really good guy and a great General Manager for the Marriott, and I did in fact write him.  Jeff told me about Marriott’s program which attempts to find people doing right by customers and nominating them for a valued recognition award.  Jeff was only too happy to nominate the bartender, sharing the story and thanking me for passing it on.

I tell you this story today because it follows up on our last two “Steak and Beans” posts, on how to reward people for doing the right things.  And since I’ve been discussing Fournies’ “Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed to Do,” you should know that chapter 7 is entitled “There is no positive consequence to them for doing it.”  As the great behavioral scientist B. F. Skinner once noted, “People don’t work to get a paycheck. They work to keep it from stopping.”

What this means to you as a manager is that you have to constantly catch people in the act of doing something right and spontaneously offering praise.  And even if you think you are doing this now, I can prove to you that it is not enough.  If you have six team members and you pay a compliment six times a week to the team, that means each person hears from you just once. In other words, you think you are offering praise six times as often as you really do. It matters, so by all means add this trait to your daily practices.

No blog post here on Tuesday, as that is the day my June newsletter goes out. It’s a sales management case and quiz for you on coaching, and I hope to hear from you with your answers. Meanwhile…

Think Like Your Customer