Unless you were raised in a barn you were probably taught how to greet people. I know I learned from my parents that when first encountering someone (family, elders, friends) for the first time each day to say “good morning” and when leaving those people, no matter what the occasion, you were obligated to say “goodbye.” It is an ingrained habit, one that forces correct behavior. So much so that greeting on entering and salutations on leaving have become involuntary, at least for me.
I believe that this lesson and the result over the years has served me well for several reasons. First it is a sign of good manners. Second, it recognizes those we encounter in human terms. Third, it is contagious to others; they welcome the interactions that put them at ease. It makes meeting and leaving a civil comportment.
In business I have developed the habit of saying “good morning” to every employee I encounter when I arrive at the office. In fact, I will traverse our 25,000 square-foot facility to do so. It is a mission of mine to greet everyone. It matters not whether they are production workers, managers or C level. I think the connection, recognition and warm greeting convey respect and acknowledgement of the individual person. They are not fixtures, tools or functionaries but people just like me and you.
This is such a basic understanding and should go without saying. Sadly, that is not the case. Along with so many other relaxations of traditions (opening doors for women, removing ones’ hat indoors, giving up a seat for an elder, saying sir or ma’am, shaving every day, avoiding bad language in mixed company) individual civility and courtesies have also eroded. It does not have to be that way. Leaders are meant to lead, not capitulate or acquiesce. Choose to be polite, engaged and friendly to everyone, it pays dividends.
Before I am called an old fogey, let me say that my demeanor is far from stiff or buttoned up as they say. I inject humor as often and as appropriately as I can. Laughter conveys a level of happiness. A sad person can’t laugh unless given a reason. Be the reason. Spread good cheer, humor and jocularity. You will feel the mood change instantly. Fun, humor and laughter in the work place is similar to the love you give to family members. It is the foundation that makes room for difficult conversations when the situation arises. You need hugs – even if only verbal ones – to be able to speak directly or chastise from time to time without destroying a relationship. One without the other is going to be more difficult and will probably not return the same result.
Part of the humanness of business is the ability for leadership to say thank you as often as possible. Thank you does not have to be limited from leader to subordinate. Thank you should also be encouraged worker to co-worker. Thank you is the fuel that motivates because people feel recognized. There is nothing worse for any level of staff than to feel unappreciated.
Sometimes upper management can get trapped in the quest of revenue and profits above all else. In reality this can be detrimental to the overall health of any business. Surely both are important and necessary for business to survive, however one must always remember a position that I have adhered to my entire business life: Cash is king, but people are more important. Employees often leave an enterprise because of issues other than their pay. So if management rules based upon dollars alone they will never be able to build stable unified and productive work force.
What I am saying is that the human interactions, appreciation and respect for everyone in any organization is critical to the health of the company.
Demetriou is CEO of the award winning Lorraine Gregory Communications company. He is a nationally published author and regularly contributes to LIBN, the Huffington Post and other business publications. He can be reached at [email protected]
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