This guest post is by Arte Nathan, a veteran HR professional with more than 30 years of practicing human resources, most of it as chief human resources officer for Golden Nugget and its successor companies, Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts.

I once had a colleague ask how we trained our employees to smile. I told him we didn’t. We hired the people who smiled during the interview, and then told them to just keep smiling when they worked.

Now here’s the story about what good managers can do to keep employees smiling.

Welcome employees — everyday!

Try to imagine being a new employee (again) for a day and realize what that’s like. Joining a new group of people or a new company is usually confusing and full of anxiety. Most of us don’t like change and this represents one of life’s bigger changes.

  • Give them a warm initial welcome.
  • Provide lots of information and printed materials. Make sure the answers to all their questions are easy to find and understand. Create FAQs about everything.
  • Say “good bye” and “thank you” when you’re done, always.
  • Let them take stuff with them, to read and absorb it when they can, and have it when and how and where they need it.

Follow the golden rule

Treating others the way you want to be treated is just plain good sense. It’s what we all learned growing up and there’s no reason not to practice this at work, everyday, in every way:

  • Set high standards for yourself and make sure you apply those standards to them.
  • You like getting as much information, in a friendly and relaxed environment, as you can get — so will they.
  • You want to be treated with respect and sensitivity — so will they.
  • You want to know how you’re doing and what’s really going on — so will they.
  • You want to feel comfortable — so will they.
  • You’ll want answers to your questions — so will they.

Explain “why”

Adults like to understand the big picture, to see how things fit together with everything else, to feel like they matter, to know that there’s a plan, to have a say in what’s going on. You can do all of that if you are always prepared to explain “why” you’re doing or asking something.

  • Be attentive, communicate well, articulate your thoughts understandably, listen to questions about what you just said, resolve conflicts and confusion, and respond appropriately — all the things effective managers are supposed to do that employees appreciate.
  • And if they appreciate you, they’ll follow you.
  • Remember: “People don’t care what you ask them to do as long as they know you care”.

Catch people doing things right

If you’ve hired the right people, told them in simple terms what you need them to do, trained them well and explained “why” – then get out of the way and let them do what they do.

  • If they meet or exceed your expectations, let them know! How often have you been in the situation where you’re doing what’s expected and nobody says anything? It’s disheartening.
  • Decide what you can and should you do to recognize those efforts (after all, isn’t that what you asked them to do?
  • Never ignore the behaviors you want repeated — start telling the people who meet or exceed your expectations how good they are and how much you appreciate their efforts.

Ask questions and really listen to the answers

The best people to ask about customer needs and preferences are your employees. They’re also the best ones to ask how you and your company can be better. They’re out there on the front line, so they should know.

  • Don’t say you don’t trust them. You hired them, so now you need to listen to them and use their experience to make things as good as they need to be.
  • Give them the tools they need to do what’s expected — everybody’s okay with doing more with less; most won’t put up with doing it with nothing.

Be fair

  • Forget consistent — unless two separate circumstances are identical, consistency is far less important than fairness.
  • “Play the face.” One of the old-school casino hosts that I learned from told me this. It means you look someone in the eye and use your experience, common sense and judgment to do what’s right. In the end, that’s all anyone asks for and can expect. Done right, this promotes trust and respect.

Sounds like a lot, but it’s not! In reality it’s just about following the Golden Rule, and if people feel like you are — every day and in every way — they’ll smile.

Image credit, nullplus, via iStockPhoto

<em>This guest post is by <a href=”http://www.thearteofmotivation.blogspot.com/” target=”_blank”>Arte Nathan</a>, a veteran HR professional with more than 25 years experience working in the hospitality industry.</em>

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21 Responses to “How good managers keep their workers smiling”

  1. Ruth V. Landron says:

    An excellent topic.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SBWorkforce and Bob Corlett, Fast Track Tools. Fast Track Tools said: RT @SBWorkforce: 6 ways good managers keep their workers smiling, by @arte88: http://ow.ly/2Rz5Y #hospitality #gaming [...]

  3. Liliana says:

    Yes tell your people if they do right, and don't forget them them even if they do wrong. People prefer attention, and feedback to nothing. Cheap, in fact free and powerful management tool. And don't wait! Tell them as soon as things happen. Good luck

  4. Joe Nuckols says:

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  5. Dale Harvey says:

    Thanks, Mary Ellen. With all the writers and information super-saturating the Internet, maketplace and media out there, your column consistently stands out repeatedly as practical, down-to-earth, Dale Carnegie common sense that people really need to remember…because it is true and it works. Well done and well written!

  6. Gina says:

    Great Post! So many managers just ask employees to do things- without ever explaining why. The why is how one learns to grasp how their part of the project fits in the big picture. If you don't know why you are doing something you can't possibly know what the effect will be if something goes wrong. It's nice to have a glimpse of the whole picture so you can see how your contribution fits with what everyone else is contributing.

  7. Ann Sabo says:

    This is a very valuable article. Manages should not hide in their offices, they need to be bot the leader of thge team and a part of the team. One of the ways to do this is to be a coach, not a discliplinarian. Unfortunately most managers are unskilled as coaches. Some time ago we started to us performance development reports from HRDT <a href="http:// (www.hrdt.net)” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://(www.hrdt.net)” target=”_blank”>(www.hrdt.net) and the situatiuon turned around dramatically. They taught us to build "communication links" with the staff. Performance improved and turnover declined.
    Ann Sabo

  8. Arte,all good direction and excellent article, but I particularly would like to emphasise: "Never ignore the behaviors you want repeated — start telling the people who meet or exceed your expectations how good they are and how much you appreciate their efforts."

    That one — so easy to do, so critical to company success — is so often ignored because managers succumb to the false belief that "employees should be doing that. It's their job."

    I'm glad to see this called out. If you want desired behaviors repeated, notice, appreciate and recognize people when they demonstrate them! Meaningfully, personally, and frequently.

    Thank for bringing this important topic up for discussion. Much appreciated.

    • Acampbell says:

      Great comments. Thanks for sharing. I agree — It is so important acknowledging desired behavior in a meaningful and personal way. Sincerity is the key!

  9. Scott Asai says:

    These are all forms of positive psychology. People's behaviors change because they are intrinsically motivated to. Try these techniques on a child and see for yourself. We move towards something better than we avoid things.

  10. Richard says:

    Wonder if the author worked at Southwest Airlines, because if you did not mention where he was from that is the company I would have guessed he worked at. The Golden Nugget will be my first stop next time I am in Vegas.

  11. Charlie says:

    Great comments. I work for a company whos moral is at a all time low. Its good to read at how easy it can be to bring back a smile in the work force

  12. Cathy says:

    I think an employee should be expected to provide some % of their max effort (say, 80%) pretty consistently – with a little less and a little more as things get slow or hairy, respectively. If you're pushing them over that most of the time (e.g. keeping not quite enough staff for a better profit margin), there will likely be fewer smiles.

  13. Lee L. says:

    A very nicely done article. Excellent advice. Would that more managers would follow it.

  14. [...] Welcome employees — everyday!Try to imagine being a new employee (again) for a day and realize what that’s like. Joining a new group of people or a new company is usually confusing and full of anxiety. Most of us don’t like change and this represents one of life’s bigger changes. (…) [...]

  15. Mary – Good article and suggestion. It takes common sense to motivate employees and simple things like you suggested in the post can keep employees smiling. However, many of the employers just don't "get it". I had written a similar article on how to motivate employees without incurring large expense. You and your readers might be interested in it here – http://www.angelbusinessadvisors.com/blog/2010/06

  16. [...] From SmartBlog on Workforce: How good managers keep their workers smiling “I once had a colleague ask how we trained our employees to smile. I told him we didn’t. We hired the people who smiled during the interview, and then told them to just keep smiling when they worked.” [...]

  17. [...] I was reading one of the blogs we’ve identified as part of our best practice collection on workplace issues, The Smartblog on Workforce. [...]

  18. Great post,

    In a recent survey of employees, over 70% plan to move to another company when the economy improves. Your content could not have come at a better time.

    It comes down to intention…intentionally creating a culture your team wants to embrace as I discuss in my blog about the book : Delivering Happiness http://nosmokeandmirrors.wordpress.com/2010/07/09

    This is a great book about intentional culture.

    Timely post

    Mark Allen Roberts

  19. Having spent the past twenty years in HR I have come to the conclusion that basic supervision skills are paramount to every organizations success! Your article is an absolute capstone of all basic BUT necessary skills to be a successful leader! This article should be required reading for supervision at any organization that values its employees! I am sure I will refer back to it for years to come. Well done!

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