I was sitting this morning at The Corner Bakery in Buckhead, Atlanta. I was mostly minding my own business and suddenly someone grabbed me from the back and give me a hug. I couldn’t really see their face so I assumed it was a friend. It was Yvonne. I had never met her before, but she did change my day. And inspired me to write this blog post about how purpose drives profits.
Yvonne is a 59-year old waitress, dressed in the standard attire, black T-shirt, black pants and her first name on her badge. My brief 2-minute interaction with her intrigued me enough to decide to watch her leadership in action. She earns $8 per hour, but she is a leader who impacts the bottom line. I observed her as she would go to random customers and give them hugs. She would bring a smile of surprise to everyone’s faces.
When I asked her to sit down and talk for a few minutes she said she needed to finish her work first. I had to actually go up to her manager to ask his permission to interview her.
After I finally got her to sit for a couple of minutes, I asked her why she was hugging her customers. She said in a deep Southern accent (she’s from Anniston, Alabama) “Girl, I’ve never met anyone I didn’t love. Even the customers who are upset, I like them. I just pray for them to have a better day”. I asked her where she got this attitude. She says she had it ever since she could remember. “I come to work for one reason – to make someone’s day, and you know that just feel good”. The “good” was said southern multi-syllable style, sort of like she was describing her grandmother’s home baked peach cobbler.
I asked her whether she thought the customers were more loyal because of her. She said “My customers come here because I make them feel at home. You got to give them what they want – love, attention, respect and care. They tell the boss that they come here for me. People send me notes from Canada and cards”. She turned around to greet a policewoman who came with outstretched arms to get a hug. “Sweet heart you have a blessed one…you have a good day wherever you at. God Bless you baby”. I asked her if there was anything else she wanted to share about her work at the restaurant and she promptly replied “Nothing but the love”.
So what did I take away from this experience?
1) You don’t need a fancy title to be transformational leader.
2) You do need to be clear about your personal leadership ethos. Ethos is a Greek word meaning “character” that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or purpose, or essence of a person or organization. Yvonne’s is “sharing love”. What’s yours?
3) Bringing your leadership brand or ethos to your work is contagious. It transforms you and it transforms your workplace. It impacts the bottom line. Yvonne is creating great ROI by loving her customers. Literally!
So bring your leadership brand powerfully to your workplace. Both you and your workplace will benefit. And the next time you’re in Buckhead, go to The Corner Bakery and ask Yvonne for a hug. It will make your day like it made mine. And it will make hers too.
To work with me to develop your leadership brand – 1 on 1 Executive Coaching Session
To create your purpose statement – Your Personal Brand – Your Purpose
This article was written by Henna Inam, executive coach, speaker, and consultant. She works with women to help them realize their potential to be authentic, transformational leaders. They create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth, and engagement. Her corporate clients include Coca Cola, UPS, Nestle, J&J, and others who know female leadership talent is good for business. To accelerate your own growth connect with her here. Connect on Twitter @hennainam