Technical skill or hospitality. Do you have the balance right? If not, it’s not good.

person balancing martini glass above book with feet

Have you ever been to dinner at someone’s house and they spent too much time cooking? What I mean is they were in the kitchen fretting over every little detail of the meal but neglected you.

While guests want great food, they also want a great social experience. This is precisely what so many businesses don’t seem to get. They work so hard on every technical detail yet forget about the human element.

It is easy to do. Technical elements are easy to measure. Knowing whether you have done the job is a simple yes or no. Knowing whether you’ve made people happy isn’t quite as black and white. While they may smile, they can still walk away less than satisfied. However, while measuring one dimension is easier than measuring the other, it is no excuse for over-indexing on technical ability while shirking the responsibility to show empathy and deliver service with a level of compassion.

It is this compassionate, human, hospitality approach that so many small, local businesses can teach larger enterprises. They seem to be able to practice it without anywhere near as much difficulty as big, thousand-employee behemoths. And why? Because, for one, the leader is usually visible and has personal relationships with their customer base. They know the power of shaking hands, carrying on a conversation, knowing the names of the kids, and being there for their neighbors. When employees see that, they know that’s how they should behave. They know a hospitality attitude is as important as technical ability.

If you have any doubts about the importance of this, consider the following. We now have machines that can scan us and screen for cancer. Imagine you go through this procedure, and it unfortunately finds some concerns. Do you want to hear the news from Dr. Robot or Dr. Rob Ott? I believe most of us would rather get the disconcerting news from Dr. Rob, the human.

I once taught a service class to a hotel team, and we were examining the importance of the human touch. One of the attendees said something I will never forget, “A flipchart can’t say good morning.” What he was getting at was the fact that we can write “Good morning” on a flipchart in a meeting room, but it means little compared to a smiling person greeting at the door.

When you go to someone’s house for dinner, you want to be paid attention to as much as the meal. The same holds true in business. We need to balance the technical and the human in our messaging and training in workplaces. We need to make hospitality skills as important as technical abilities. Business is human first and foremost and losing sight of that is the first step to ruin. When you dismiss the human side, your dinner might taste good, but your guests will leave feeling neglected. Good luck having anyone over again, and businesses need to have people over again.

Think about it. Look around. Is your business over indexed on technical skill but lacking in hospitality? Get the balance right. You will thank me.

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