• October 2011

How to Differentiate Yourself in One Minute Flat

By Lisa Earle McLeod
Keynote speaker and author
McLeod & More, Inc.

Can a single pivotal behavior elevate the culture of your entire organization?

It can if it’s the right behavior.

Here’s how a simple one minute act helped an organization outperform their competition by leaps and bounds:

My family and I were moving our daughter into Boston University last weekend. As we were standing on the street looking befuddled at the campus map, a friendly official-looking gentleman approached us asking, “Can I help you find something?”

He introduced himself as the Dean of Students. He asked where we were from, told us he was delighted to have us on campus and pointed us in the right direction.

Keep in mind, this is a major university in the middle of a huge city with 4,500 freshman moving in on the same day. Yet the Dean himself personally approached us.

Here’s the kicker, it’s not just because he’s a friendly extrovert. It’s their official campus policy.

If a staff member sees anyone looking at one of the big maps they are expected to approach them and offer help. One staff member joked, “It’s a fireable offense to walk by people at the map and not offer to help.”

They didn’t view it as a punitive thing. That single behavior — help people when they’re standing at the sign — was exciting for them. It was emblematic of their organizational culture and how they perceive themselves.

This simple model can be implemented by any organization.

What would happen if an airline set a company-wide policy for all their employees? If you walk by someone in the airport who looks lost, offer to help. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pilot, a baggage handler or the CEO, be proactive and offer to help.

How long would it take before customers started to view that airline differently from their competitors?

How much more empathy would employees and executives have for weary travelers if they had more positive interactions with them before they started complaining?

How would the employees treat their customers if they saw senior leadership consistently modeling helpfulness and patience?

Here’s how I observed it playing out at BU.

A staff member approaches the “customer” with a smile on their face offering to help. The customer responds positively. The whole thing takes about a minute. The customer walks away happy.

But the customer isn’t the only one walking away feeling great about the organization.

The staff member is able to successfully solve a simple problem quickly and be thanked for it. After they do it once or twice, it becomes self-reinforcing. They start to see themselves as problem-solvers and ambassadors for their company.

The ripple effect this has on the organization’s culture should not be underestimated.

That single policy tells everyone inside and outside the organization, our goal is to be helpful. We care about people and we place a high priority on interpersonal interactions.

When employees of every level personally connect with customers, they empathize with them and they carry that knowledge back to their job.

That single pivotal behavior — help people at the sign — ignites a process that makes customers and employees feel cared about and connected, and community forms quickly.

I’m delighted to be sending huge checks to Boston twice a year because they made me feel loved. Who doesn’t want their customers to feel that way?

You can have the best product in the world, but the only way to evoke true passion is with people.


About Lisa Earle McLeod

Business strategist Lisa Earle McLeod is an expert in sales force and leadership development. An author, consultant, syndicated columnist, media commentator, and keynote speaker, she is recognized as a thought-leader whose latest book, “The Triangle of Truth,” was named a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book for Leaders.

A bottom-line-oriented business advisor whose firm, McLeod & More, Inc. was featured in Fortune Magazine, she is also a problem-solving expert whose conflict-resolution handbook was delivered to every member of the House and Senate. And she’s a leadership contributor for Forbes.com, she blogs regularly for The Huffington Post, and she has written more than 500 articles.

This high-energy keynote speaker who has rocked the house everywhere from Apple to Pfizer to The United Way is a repeat guest on “Good Morning America” and has appeared on hundreds or radio and TV shows.

McLeod’s clients range from pharmaceutical to financial services, including Ann Taylor, Capital G, West Pharmaceutical, Black & McDonald, Kimberly-Clark, CMIT, and numerous franchises and entrepreneur organizations. She is also a personal-development expert whose first book “Forget Perfect,” was featured in The New York Times, and continues to sell a full decade after the original printing. Her essay collection, “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear,” was featured on Oprah.com.

McLeod and her husband Bob live in Atlanta. They are the parents of two fabulous teenage daughters.