I was with Anne Miner in her office the other day when one of her team members popped in to drop off a client research report. Anne introduced me to Karen, one of her newest team members. Then she looked Karen directly in the eye and said with a smile, “Thank you, Karen! I was hoping to get this report early so I won’t be rushed while I am reviewing it.”
“No problem!” replied Karen.
There was an awkward pause, and Karen looked chagrined. “I’m sorry, Anne, I will go directly to put a tooney in the jar,” and off she went.
Well, that felt weird. What just happened, I wondered?
Anne saw the bewildered look on my face. “We don’t say, “No problem” here, at The Dunvegan Group," she explained.
“We are a group of problem solvers. Clients come to us to help them solve problems. When we tell them what we did for them was “no problem,” we tell them our contribution had no value, and we can hardly expect them to want to pay for our services.”
"We do say, “My pleasure,” “I am glad to help,” or “You are most welcome.”
To embed this behavior into our culture, we all agreed to remind each other. And, as a team, we decided to pay a $2 fine for every use of that expression.”
Wow. I had never heard of this idea before. “Is that working?” I asked.
“Yes. What you just observed was one of our newer team members slipping into an old habit, recognizing their folly, and volunteering that she would pay the fine. I doubt it will happen again.”
What happens to the money? I wondered, but before I could ask, Anne continued, “There was a suggestion that the fine money gets used to fund a staff party, but that felt like an incentive for my team to overuse the expression and have fun. The money in the fine jar, while not very much, is donated to charities solving problems in the community.”
Thinking back to the exchange between Anne and Karen, I could see that Anne communicated her appreciation for the report's early delivery and indicated how that had solved a problem for her. The clues were all there.
Next time, I am pretty sure Karen’s response to being thanked will be “My pleasure,” “I am glad to help,” or “You are most welcome.”