There are two series of books that have influenced my business life directly. One is a series of five books I first read as a child and have re-read several times since, until the books are barely holding together. I have read them twice to my own sons and am now reading the first book to a friend’s son. The second is a trilogy that came to me as a gift and I have talked about in this blog quite often.
This blog is about that first series of books. (You can follow the link in the previous paragraph to read about the trilogy.)
I don’t think Lloyd Alexander was thinking about business lessons in 1964 when he wrote The Book of Three, the first in his five-book children’s series The Chronicles of Prydain. Having read the entire series more times than I have fingers, however, I keep finding lessons on every page.
The opening chapter of the first book introduces us to the lead character, Taran of Caer Dallben. We don’t know much about him other than he helps tend a garden and take care of an oracular pig, but he wants to be a big hero. He wants a title to go with his name, so Coll, his mentor, gives him one … Taran, Assistant Pig Keeper.
For the first three books, he is known as Taran, Assistant Pig Keeper. (In book #4 he becomes Taran Wanderer. This book was the light bulb idea that sparked my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art.) Although he desired to be a warrior of noble blood, mostly what he wanted was to be something, anything, to simply have a title and purpose.
Your staff have that desire, too. They HATE wearing a name badge that says “Trainee” because they know it means customers don’t trust them or treat them with respect. They want a title, preferably one that sounds important, that gives them some respect.
I see this as a creative opportunity.
While not everyone can be a store or department manager, you can make them managers of specific things like:
- Manager of Smiles
- Manager of Problem Solving
- Manager of Question Answering
- Manager of Greetings and Salutations
- Manager of Product Knowledge
- Manager of Finding Lost Products
- Manager of Sunshine
- Manager of Giving Customers an Experience They Will Never Forget That They Will Have to Tell All Their Friends About and Drag those Friends to the Store on Their Next Visit
Okay, maybe that last one won’t fit on a name tag, but you get the idea.
The point is that a title gives an air of respect. A title like the ones above also gives a fresh air of cheer, sets a customer at ease, and lets the customer know this person is (hopefully) trained to help. Most importantly, the title gives your employee a sense of importance, a purpose, and even a goal to aspire to.
One other benefit is that when you make a big deal out of giving your employee a title, especially when it is something cool and fun and even personal with layers of meaning, it shows that person that you care.
The more you care for your staff, the more they will take care of your customers.
Yeah, I got all that from a children’s book.
“Take inspiration from wherever you find it, no matter how ridiculous.” -Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads (yeah, that other series of books)
Decorate your staff by giving them fun, meaningful titles and watch how they grow into those roles.
PS The more personal and fun you make the title, the more benefits you will see. Your employees will work harder and your customers will be quicker to trust them with just this simple little act. It is the little things that make a difference.
PPS Get rid of your assistant managers (the titles, not the people). Make everyone a manager of something, even if it is simply a “Shift Manager.” The word “Manager” says authority. “Assistant” says “not yet good enough.” Make them all good enough to solve the customer’s problem and take care of her every need, and give them the title to declare it.