Steve Harrison, one of three founders and Chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison, the world’s leading Talent management company, had just hired a new COO, Ray. He had an MBA and was recently retired from the US Army with the rank of brigadier general.
So he could get to know as many people as possible, Steve took Ray on a tour of the company. At their first branch office stop, Melissa, the receptionist, was on duty.
“How are you, Melissa?” Steve asked.
“Fine. And you, Steve?”
“Great. Have a good day.”
Steve proceeded toward the interior offices, but Ray pulled them back to Melissa’s desk.
After introducing himself, Ray launched a dialogue with Melissa. “How long have you been with us?” “How did you hear about us?” “What did you do before you joined our firm?” “What kind of dog is that in the picture?” “What do you think of this business we’re in together?” The collaborative language was infectious. It communicated that Ray and Melissa were in the enterprise as equal partners. Ray also asked Melissa if she had any questions. He waited, Melissa asked a couple, Ray answered them candidly. Melissa was clearly delighted with the exchange.
Finally Ray said, “Well, nice to meet you, Melissa. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’. I look forward to seeing you next time I’m here.”
With that, Ray and Steve went inside to meet the rest of the staff.
Steve asked Ray, “What was that all about?”
Ray said, “That’s called the two-minute schmooze! Receptionists meet or talk to more people critical to our company in one month than you or I ever do in a year: people at all levels, from all our branches everywhere, our customers, suppliers, colleagues, bosses, applicants, and job seekers. Most of all, receptionists talk to each other. They are a key part of our reputation.”
Ray’s two-minute schmooze is how Steve first learned the power of small decencies, its perfect example of decent leadership and the impact small decencies can have on organizations.
Sometime later Steve authorized LHH receptionists to have business cards with the job title: Manager of First Impressions.
Lee Hecht Harrison is now The LHH Division of Adecco, the world’s largest job placement agency, based in Switzerland. In 2021, Steve and Jim Lukaszewski coauthored the book “The Decency Code: The Leader’s Path to Civility, Integrity, and Trust”, © 2021 McGraw Hill. This story is on pages 46-48.
*Shibboleth, Jim’s Definition: practical information you can use today and tomorrow, and lasts a long time.