Want better results? Take a genuine interest in your employees and clients

“Become genuinely interested in other people.” — Dale Carnegie

In one of my recent Dale Carnegie classes we had a manager who proudly proclaimed she was from the East Coast and frankly did not believe the least little bit in the importance of getting to know her people on a personal basis.

Coincidently, the reason she was in the class in the first place was that her manager strongly advised her to participate. He also told us that her department consistently ran the highest turnover in their organization. In exit interviews with those that left, the theme was pretty much that she did not really care about them as people, so much as cogs in the work machine.

When you consider that the single greatest factor that leads to employee engagement is the quality of the relationship an employee has with his or her manager, the above is not really a surprise. In fact, as enlightened as our world is today, this kind of thing happens all too frequently. I should also say that the manager mentioned above did see the light in our training and is still with that organization and now running very low turnover in her department.

It truly is the little things that count. Early in my work life, I had the good fortune to work with a family-owned company called Hoffman House Restaurants. Every year each restaurant closed for one night in January for the annual employee Christmas party. The reason it was in January is that we were taking care of everyone else’s parties during the month of December.

I will never forget the first year I was the manager of the restaurant in Janesville and I received a call from Cy Hoffman about a week before our Christmas party. He must have spent at least a half hour on the phone with me getting caught up with what was going on in the personal lives of many of my employees. I wondered at the time why this busy guy was so interested in their lives, spouses, kids, pets, etc.

Anyway, the night of the party I watched him work the room. He would go up to people he only saw once or twice a year and start talking about them. Wow, did the people ever notice that! Here he was, a major owner of our organization, connecting with cooks, food servers, the maintenance staff, and everyone else. They not only appreciated his interest, they all commented on it, as well. This was one of those great management lessons that I had the opportunity to learn from a master.

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The good news is that this idea not only works from a management perspective, it is mission critical to professional selling, as well. I have a banker friend from one of the small communities in southwestern Wisconsin who shared a great example of how it works. He told me the story of a new plant manager who was moving to the city to take over after the retirement of the former leader. There were two other financial institutions in the town and getting this person’s account was a big deal.

Rather than selling right out of the gate, my friend really got to know the guy on a personal level. Not only that, he introduced him to the principal of the school his kids would be attending. He invited him to attend his service club luncheon and get to know the other players in the community. He made darn sure he was invited to the annual community festival. In the meantime, the business development technique that his competitors were using was the age old, “What will it take to get your business?” Needless to say, my friend got the business because he built a relationship based on genuine interest in the person.

I have dozens of these examples that come from our classrooms. The underlying success factor in every one of them is not just interest, but genuine interest. It is like the old Coke commercial that talked about “the real thing.” The reason I mention it is that the person on the other end always knows if the interest is genuine. You can fake it for a while, but sooner or later most people catch on.

So, whether you’re a manager or a salesperson, go out there and get to know your people and your clients at a deeper level. Positive results will almost certainly follow.

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