Who is the most important person in your organization? This is a question I have been thinking about for a long while. In any public organization we can come up with many answers. Many are obvious: elected officials, volunteers police officers, fire fighters, snow plow drivers (though usually only in the winter). What about the not-so-obvious?
How do we make judgements? Often we make our judgements of a person or organization on our first impression. When or how does a person first encounter City Hall? They either call or walk into the building. Now, who is the most important person in your organization? Of course, the answer is framed within the context of the question and the environment. In this case, my answer is: two people – both of equal stature. The custodian and the receptionist. Yes, the custodian and the receptionist. Maybe it is because during my college years and post-college years, I worked as a custodian for a city, and did custodial work in a restaurant (when I was not cooking — I was a pretty good short order cook, if I do say so myself). I learned from a gentleman named Henry Geller. Mr. Geller was the Head Custodian with the City of Mentor, many, many years ago. If a building or part of a building was not completely clean, Mr. Geller would let us know. He was detail oriented. He would put certain items, like a match or a nail, or small scrap of paper in a corner, or along a wall. If it was there the next morning, he would take us to it and lecture us about paying attention to the details.
An important part of Mr. Geller’s reasoning was that the public walked into City Hall to be served. He felt that the cleanliness of the building reflected the work of others in the building – for whom he had high regard – and he too was highly regarded by everyone in the building. He taught us that first impressions matter, and when someone walked into “his building” (and he said that with great pride), it needed to make a good impression. What impression does your building make? What do the floors, counters and yes, the restrooms say about your organization, and maybe by extension, your community. Does you custodian know how important he/she is?
It was once commented to me about how well one of my secretaries sounded on the phone – she was welcoming, warm, helpful, professional. This gentleman was the CEO of a company moving into Geneva, Ohio. I listened closely as he spoke about the service nature of a city and his first impression of the organization, because of the way Ms. Chinchar answered the phone and answered his questions. Mr. Gamble was very impressed. I don’t know f he saw me sweating or not – I thought Ms. Chinchar was very good at her job. – but I felt even better when he thought she was outstanding!! Another first impression. Many of us have taken the usual telephone training program: how to answer the phone, etc. But do the people (usually ladies) in our organization really know or get the feeling that managers, bosses, appreciate what they do? That they are the first impression upon a resident or a business? Their first impression speaks for the administration and the city council/township trustees.
Take some time to tell your secretary, administrative assistant and receptionist that you appreciate the first impression she/he makes for you and the organization.
So again, I’ll ask the question, who is the most important person in your organization?