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Smiling Might Be The Key


If you’ve never heard of Tom Peters, you should read some of his stuff. He’s one of those management gurus, and in my mind, one of the very best of them out there. He challenges people to do better and uses common sense to battle the ills that affect business. He also makes you think along the way.


I was reading one his presentations that he gave to a group of retailers. For his research, he spoke to a Starbuck’s regional manager. He’d been to any number of Starbuck’s stores around the world while traveling for his speaking engagements. In every Starbuck’s store, he noticed the employees were always smiling. So he posed this question to the regional manager: “What’s your secret?” The manager replied, “We hire people who smile!” Then he asked, how she kept them smiling. “We promote the ones who smile the most,” she told him.


Could it really be that simple? Peters wonders. In some respects, yes, it might be. Yes, people in customer service should smile. It’s part of the job, after all. However, you’re not going to get a smile just by hiring someone for the job. It’s got to be part of them.

For example, I’ve hired a number of people in my career and have conducted a lot of job interviews over that time. Several candidates had a lot of great experience, but their attitude was just crappy. Some would complain about their previous employer (That’s a bad sign.); or make snide comments; or, others would constantly use “I, I, I” instead of “we, we, we.”


I did catch myself, from time to time, believing that once hired, all the attitude would somehow magically disappear, that the experience on the resume would somehow make everything else about the candidate better. In the few times I let this rationale go to work, it never turned out that way. A bad attitude during an interview always translates to a bad attitude on the job, no matter how stellar the resume.

People who smile are likely going to be happy doing their jobs and when other people see them smiling, it’s infectious. There’s science behind the idea that being happy makes you smile, and smiling makes you happy. According to the magazine Scientific American, researchers from the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people who’d had Botox injections in their face were happier than those who didn’t, merely for the fact that they couldn’t frown.


The Botox stopped the frown, stopping the unhappy feelings. The researchers believe that the acts of smiling or frowning can work their magic on the brain and vice versa.

You might say you primarily deal with professional customers who call on the phone and you don’t need a smiling counter pro. I swear, you can tell people are smiling even when they’re on the other end of the telephone. And, I bet people who smile are happier at their jobs than those who don’t.

Should you go out and hire someone with a great smile but with absolutely no common sense or desire to learn the job? No. That’s not going to help either. Smiling’s not everything, but it might be one key to having a productive workforce.

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