Searching For Service Talent? Look To The “In” Crowd

Spend enough time around me, and you’ll become painfully aware of my simpler, yet more guilty pleasures.

One of the frequent insights shared is my affection for the original Project Runway television series.

I don’t know . . . its something about designers working through a process of expression, trying desperately to tap creativity that will produce an avant-garde garment from a collection of recycled materials, or newspapers, bubble wrap, the occasional high-quality fabric . . . all the while being urged to “Make it work”.

Perhaps what resonates strongest is Heidi Klum’s ominous and ever-present reminder that in the world of high fashion, “One day you’re in, the next day you’re out.”

That statement is a guidepost for anyone performing in a competitive landscape. While high fashion may be more temperamental and subject to trends, every industry whose success depends on the discretionary leanings of a consumer relies on the discretionary effort of their talent.

Having the right talent, with the right frame of mind and perspective to bring their best every day, is paramount to attracting and retaining clientele.

What qualities define this talent? The Entertainment industry refers to “It” or the X-Factor.

With the more pragmatic demands of the Service industry, we’ll go deeper and turn our attention to the “In” Crowd: those with Innate ability and Inherent desire, capable of delivering Intangibles that produce amazing results.

Searching for Emotional Resonance

Combine Innate ability with Inherent, unbridled desire and witness tasks performed with precision, without hesitation or promise of reward. Passion and enthusiasm become contagious. Your team feeds off a collective energy, one powerful enough to extend outward to your customers, guests, patients, etc.

Such is the premise in our search for the “In” Crowd: It all begins in the heart, not the mind or the result of experience.

“So, Tall Tim, exactly where do we find this talent with an innate ability and inherent desire to serve?”

Well . . . that’ the challenge. No one said it would be easy.

Reversing the previous statement:  We can identity and verify a person’s experience, then pose questions to determine knowledge. Evaluating what’s in someone’s heart, their discretionary tendencies, becomes less practical. A good place to start, though, is within yourself.

Leadership is an innate quality that also begins in the heart, not the mind. Search for emotional resonance, something both familiar and unique in an applicant or current associate. Trust your instinct, sense that what attracted you to an opportunity has attracted someone with the same intent. 

Think back to the moment you recognized service was a part of you, yet something larger than yourself.  Go into the vault, back to the earliest experience along your path. Then ask a candidate to do the same.

Listen for descriptions such as “I wanted to do something special”, “Uncomfortable watching them wait”, or “I knew I could do better.”

These expressions portray when a person has tapped into their Conscious Clarity. Details of an outcome can be refined, but the inherent desire must be genuine and work from inside-out.

I was asked a similar question during my interview process for the Coast Guard Academy and knew the exact moment my switch flipped “In”. Let’s go back in time . . .

It was during the summer we leased our Country Club Pool from the city, to operate as a private business in lieu of having it closed. My relationship with the Club’s Manager was tenuous at best, considering he had been in favor of closing the pool for good.

A valve had loosened overnight allowing water to drain from the pool. It was down about 18 inches from an acceptable level, making the pool unsafe for the public. Complicating matters was that several areas of the Golf Course were being watered that morning, and the pool could not be filled while those sprinklers were operating.

When I explained my dilemma to the Club Manager, his response was “Not my problem.”

There is nothing worse than planning a day at the pool, only to arrive and find it closed. I had to do something in the next three hours or be forced to turn people away.

My teenage brain went into overdrive. One source of water remained available through the kiddie pool. The pressure from that outlet was like a firehouse, necessitated by frequent draining and filling due to Baby Biology and such. We used a mobile unit to vacuum the pool, which I positioned to draw water from the kiddie pool and funnel into the main pool.

Within three hours, the water volume had reached the safety threshold and we could open as planned. An added bonus was watching little ones shoot across the kiddie pool as it continued to fill, like an impromptu water park.

It wasn’t about losing money if we had to close. I didn’t want to disappoint families and children who had planned their day, potential memories at risk if I could not find a solution.

Bottom line was that I loved being at the pool in summer and loved sharing it with others. Even when it wasn’t someone else’s “problem”.      

That was a long time ago. There may have been opportunities prior, but that day is when I achieved Conscious Clarity.  

A path can be traced through every service opportunity since. It represents something innate and inherent, the heart and soul that weaves through the many chapters of the Tall Tim Story.    

Listen Beyond First Impressions

Looks can be deceiving . . . I know that sounds incredibly cliché but searching for the “In” Crowd may require listening beyond a physical First Impression.

Tall Tim Example #1:  We were hiring Food & Beverage professionals, approaching desperation for a few key positions. Combing over applications and resumes, I happened upon a candidate with a great employment history, having worked in well-known venues with a similar business volume.

When I called his contact number, I could tell he was outdoors from sounds in the background. He excitedly confirmed his availability for a screening interview, stating he could be at the hotel within 30 minutes.

In the blink of an eye, he was in my office . . . dressed professionally and sweating profusely. His appearance made me wonder if I had interrupted some sort of task. Perhaps the excitement of an interview made him abandon his mower, with it still sitting in the middle of a half-finished lawn as he drove away.

First Impression aside, we began to discuss the opportunity.

“It’s been my dream to join this hotel,” he said, “even before it opened. I’ve submitted applications but was never called for an interview.”

He began to describe an approach to his craft, one that portrayed passion and clarity. Intrigued, I asked him to share a memory from the beginning, the earliest experience he could recall that influenced his chosen path.  His response conveyed a natural, inherent desire passed down through family and embraced as a profession.

Not to say my spidey-sense is foolproof, but I was intrigued and connected him with a Restaurant Manager for further consideration. After about 30 minutes, the manager bid a fond farewell to our applicant and came directly to my office. He was not amused.

“Why did you send this guy over to me? Did you see the way he was dressed? And then all the sweating . . . not a good fit for us.”

We discussed the interview guide, what questions were asked, and responses received. Both of us had sensed promise in his ability and practical experience. Fortunately, I had built enough trust in our relationship to convince the manager to see beyond the physical impression and extend an offer.

Break “In” Down:

The associate went on to successfully serve the hotel for more than five years. He wasn’t the most talented player but was a perfect fit for our team.

Adjusting to schedule changes, volunteering for community service, engaging with guests, providing quality feedback and perspective . . . you name it, he was all “in”, continuously displaying the qualities that resonated during our first meeting.

His story serves as advice moving forward: When you find someone with innate ability and intentional desire, do everything you can to hire, then keep them . . . recognize when you have a diamond in the rough.

As for that first meeting? He had been doing yardwork, dropping everything for what he described as the “opportunity of a lifetime.”

Invested Ingenuity

Innate ability and inherent desire remove hesitation by naturally assuming the “why” and moving straight on to “what” and “how”. This enables incredible acts of invested ingenuity, delivered with genuine and sincere intent.

These are the Intangibles that create lasting memories, separate you from competitors, and engage both clients and associates.

While creating these moments is important, the sense in which they are delivered make them special. It is the ease of knowing your effort is coming from the heart, not a budget or book of standards. You’re caring for someone, making them feel comfortable, and among friends.

Tall Tim Example #2:

We were working with a resort in South Florida. Having completed a multi-million dollar renovation, they were preparing to officially re-open following several months of reduced operations.

A colleague and I were seated at the bar as a result of limited capacity in the restaurant. This outlet featured patio dining, which gave the room a slight chill after sunset.

To this point, our bartender had been attentive and efficient. What happened next created an indelible mark.

Dressed in a sleeveless blouse, my colleague rubbed her shoulders and commented, “It’s getting chilly.” Focus returned to our meals and continued discussion regarding plans for the next day.

Without a sound or notice, the bartender had moved from behind the bar and was standing to the side of my colleague. In his outstretched hands was a pashmina, as he asked, “May I?”, and gently wrapped the garment around her shoulders.

The bartender then returned to his position, while my colleague and I stared at each other in amazement.

Break “In” Down:

Okay . . . so it wasn’t an authentic pashmina made of fine cashmere from Himalayan goats, but the experience made it feel that way.

Being Development professionals, we did a quick field interrogation of the bartender:

Yes – they did have a stack of shawls behind the bar to offer guests

Yes – it was a standard for the resort

Yes – guests did occasionally wander off with an unexpected souvenir, but at $12 per shawl, it was worth the risk

While these were the tangibles of the moment, it was their execution that created a memory. There was no need on behalf of the bartender to offer, inquire, or solicit input from his guest. He seamlessly, and graciously accommodated a need, and through his innate ability and inherent desire, became a lesson for us all.

Are You “In”?

There are more examples . . . the turndown housekeeper who delivered wine glasses, a bottle opener, and ice when she noticed guests had been gifted a bottle of wine . . . the physician’s clerical assistant who held an anxious parent’s hand while their child was in surgery . . . the steward who rode his bike through a hurricane to be part of a hotel’s Ride-Out crew.

These are the intangibles you cannot teach. They result from innate ability and inherent desire.

Just listen for the right heartbeat and hold on like your business depends on it . . . because in so many ways, it does.

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

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