Last week, my wife and I enjoyed three nights and four days up in Santa Barbara to complete our new year planning, both for our business and for us personally. This is an annual cadence we’ve done for many years, but now our two adult children have flown the nest, we’re able to expand our wings and breeze up the beautiful California coast to map out our hopes and dreams for the next 12 months.
This trip away from home necessitated us needing to pick up some groceries, as we’d booked to stay in a gorgeous Airbnb with its own kitchen. We were delighted to find that our favorite funky Californian grocery outlet had a store within 0.4 miles of our place of abode, according to Google Maps. We figured this would be just wonderful.
Even though both the name on the frame and supplies were the same, the vibe was somehow very different in the store just 74 miles from what we’d known and come to love. Although the place, the prices and the products were same, the people seemed different… and not in a good way.
I don’t know whether it was the cool breeze blowing through Santa Barbara but we felt the store assistants were cold, aloof and not as helpful — nowhere as joyous and bubbly as the ones who work in Santa Clarita.
Even the younger ones (who were most likely high schoolers or college students) seemed to move slower and with far less zip and zest. Was it just the fact that we could smell more of that pungent, skunk-like smell, (that has insanely been legalized in California) in and around the store, or was it something else?
We came to the conclusion that even though the strange-smelling stuff does seem to slow employees down and make them careless — the heart of the issue seemed to lie in the human hearts, serving us.
I’m a great believer that all organizations are really volunteer organizations because people will choose how much to give of themselves. Human beings are four-dimensional — the body, the mind, the soul and the heart. Organizations are able to hire someone’s back on an hourly rate (that’s the physical dimension) but the other three facets — the mind, the soul and the heart — are volunteered only.
It’s from the mind that people contribute ideas — how to do the same things even better. It’s from the soul where the desire to leave a legacy and make the proverbial “difference” is stemmed. But the heart is where the passion for someone’s work is born.
I don’t know whether the wacky-backy had so dulled the mind that these young associates weren’t feeling it in their souls that day but for sure (as the locals say) the heart had left the building.
Marketing 101 teaches us that business is all about the 5P’s — place, price, product, promotion and people. This quirky and super cool grocery store checks the box on both sides of our road trip for place, price, product and promotion. It’s that pesky variable — the people that’s different.
We decided to go the extra mile and mention this to our local store manager upon our return. He was delighted to hear the good news about our store and yet saddened to hear about the one up the 101. We did mention the wafts of wonder we could smell throughout the Santa Barbara store, which surprisingly he acknowledged as being a very real and present danger to workplace effectiveness.
Upon our departure he pointed to a sign on the side of his supervisor’s box that sits within the store — “The only high we permit from our staff while working is a form of hello.” So once again, I came to the conclusion it’s leadership that’s willing to stand up for what’s right and call out what’s wrong in an increasingly crazy world we live and shop within.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].