Dairy Queen manager shows true leadership

Not long ago a young man from Hopkins, MN did something Amazing at the Dairy Queen shop he manages. It wasn’t earth shattering. And it was something, in his own words, that “99 out of a 100 people” would have done. Yet it was rare and wonderful enough that the Internet and traditional news media have been buzzing about for weeks. It’s dragged him into an unfamiliar spotlight of modest fame and good fortune.

Here’s the 411:

On September 10, Joey Prusak witnessed a bad act. One of his customers, who is visually impaired, dropped a $20 bill but didn’t realize it. Another customer grabbed it and stuffed it in her purse. I guess she figured, ‘finders keepers’. But Prusak wasn’t having any of that. He asked her to give it back. When she refused he asked her to leave the store. He was not going to serve people who behaved with such disrespect. Then, he opened his wallet, pulled out a $20, and gave it to the customer who lost his. After that he went back to work.

(The story got out because another customer witnessed it and emailed DQ headquarters. From there, a DQ employee  posted it to Facebook.)

(Read the full story  here.)

While I admire his humility and optimism, I disagree that 99 people out of a 100 would do what he did. If this were true, then Mr. Prusak would probably not be a minor Internet celebrity. He wouldn’t have received calls, interviews, well-wishes and gifts from the many people he has. He surely would not have gotten a call from Warren Buffet, the Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, the company that owns Dairy Queen (complete with an invitation to join Buffet at next spring’s shareholder’s meeting).

Besides humility and kindness, there is a lot we can learn from this act. Prusak’s behavior demonstrates many attributes of leadership that we talk about and read about but don’t always witness. So its become a powerful learning moment. Here are some valuable leadership lessons I take from this event.

1.  Leaders take action.

It’s easy to see something like this happen and tell ourselves (or others) how wrong it was for that lady to take the $20 bill that didn’t belong to her. It’s much harder to do something about it.  The inertia created by habit can prevent us from taking action. Also, fear of the unknown and the perceived risks associated with it can keep us from acting.

But to accomplish any sort of positive change, action is required. Successful leaders know that while talking, thinking and planning are important, change does not happen without action.

2.  Leaders have ethical standards and they hold themselves accountable to them.

Prusak was clear in what he thought about people who would steal from others so blatantly. He wasn’t afraid to act on his values and he did so by asking the “suspect” to leave the store. Doing so might have violated a company policy. It may have exceeded his authority. But it fit with his value system so he made his decision and he acted on it. This takes courage but it also takes self-awareness and unwavering confidence in your own value system. I’ve heard it said “character is what we do when no one is looking”. Our values are the foundation that character is built upon.

3.  Leaders put others first.

Effective leaders know whatever they accomplish, they do it through the work of others.  Building a team that gets things done requires a lot of different capabilities. The most important (in my opinion) of these is to serve others.  Leadership experts talk about  ”servant leadership” as a style of leadership. I see serving others as necessary in all forms of leadership.  What better way is there to build trust and connectedness with others than to put them first?

In effective leaders often suffer from the “do as I say, not as I do”  syndrome. If your actions and words align with your values and people can see that consistently, they’re more likely to believe you and trust you. It’s hard to build credibility when people think your words are empty.

As a manager at Dairy Queen, Joey Prusak has all kinds of credibility with his employees when he talks of treating customers well and doing the right thing.  They can see his values demonstrated in his actions on a daily basis.  Even better, he has probably improved how his employees do their jobs simply by being a role model. He’s shown them what can happen when you do the right thing.

Maybe the most important lesson here is that we can all do the right thing for our customers (and others in our lives). Prusak’s actions and his humble response to the all the attention he’s getting are his way of saying, anyone can do this.  We just need to choose to do it.

by Kevin Stirtz on September 21, 2013 ~ AmazingServiceGuy.com


All Hail The Concierge – from Hotel Interactive

Who doesn’t love a good concierge? I know we sure do here at Hotel Interactive as they are the most critical conduit between a hotel and the community in which it resides. Concierges hold the doorway open for winning experiences that take place off property, but which the guest directs related to the overall stay.
A good concierge sets the stage for memories, positive or negative and have a direct influence whether a guest will come again or choose a competitor.
But what is a concierge anyway? The term “concierge” comes from the French, Comte Des Cierges, which means “The Keeper of the Candles,” in referring to a person who attended to the needs of visitors to medieval castles.
Castles have evolved into multi-million dollar resorts and hotels and today’s concierge works with high-tech tools. But at its most basic, the role of concierge hasn’t changed in more than 500 years.
“The underlying quality that comes to a being a very good concierge is an individual who has a true understanding of the needs of a guest and a true desire to be of service,” said Robert Marks, chief concierge at The Omni San Diego Hotel and vice president of Les Clefs d’Or USA, the national organization of hotel lobby concierges. “It really comes from a willingness to be of service. That is not something that is a teachable – it has to be an individual trait.”
There are, of course, many things that are teachable to aspiring concierges. Most properties put potential concierges through extensive training programs before the trainee even talks to a guest.
“No colleague is ever put behind a concierge desk alone without at least three weeks of training,” said Dan Droz, concierge supervisor at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena. “Training usually starts with an introduction to our computer system because it is a digital rolodex of our contacts and favorites. They learn to utilize this system and log information and requests correctly so the next shift can know what is going on without missing a beat.
“We then slowly introduce the new concierge to some options in each category and as the new colleague becomes more confident, their baseline of information is expanded. We make introductions with our vendor contacts and expand their network by having them attend events such as those from the LACA (Los Angeles Concierge Association). The learning cycle never ends – even for the experienced concierge. Oftentimes the best training discussions happen as requests come in or as questions are asked by the new concierge.”
A concierge, Droz said, is also responsible for getting to know guests on a level that other colleagues cannot, due to the in-depth types of conversations a concierge has with guests.
“Whether reminding them of the restaurant they loved on their last stay, remembering a child’s favorite treat, or the type of seat they prefer for a sports game, it is up to us to make sure that consistent level of quality and personalization enchants guests every time they stay with us,” Droz said. “Lobby concierge desks should serve as an oasis for guests during their stay. Any request, within the bounds of the law, can be discussed and options are given leading to guests’ wishes being granted. This is a timeless tradition that is honored by all concierge.”
At the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, each concierge undergoes what Chief Concierge calls “core training,” starting with brand introduction courses that include "In the Beginning," which covers the brand history and philosophy, "Five Diamond Service Training," and "JW Symphony of Service," which is exclusive to JW Marriott associates.
“For more in-depth information on the property, which further helps their abilities to be a resource for guests, they must complete the "Passport to Success" course within the first three months that they are with the hotel,” Calabrese said. “This cross-training program places the associate in different areas of the hotel for a complete understanding of the property and its services.”
Calabrese said training is also done off property as associates visit local attractions and participate in local cultural events to familiarize themselves with all of the options available to guests who want to explore the destination.
“They cannot recommend any place to a guest they have never visited,” he said. “Networking is an important aspect in these off-property activities, so that the concierge will know the right contact to reach for any given request from a guest. It is also a requirement to be well-versed in the culture and history of the destination.”
That kind of training – and ongoing training – are the keys to developing great concierges, according to Ed Ponder, director of guest services at The Betsy-South Beach and former president of the Southern Florida Concierge Association.
“We use pre-hiring questionnaires to see what they know and need to learn,” Ponder said. “Ongoing tests are used to challenge and expand their knowledge – regarding areas of the city including historical elements that are vital, cuisine, nightlife, etc. Hands-on experience is key so they are scheduled to dine, tour, and just experience the place as the guests will and do.”
So basically, from an information and recommendation standpoint, the concierge is a reference who has experienced and vetted places, restaurants and attractions for guests.
“Even with all of the technological advances we have such as Trip Advisor, Yelp and mobile applications, the people writing those reviews are anonymous, and could be providing biased reviews,” Droz said. “This is when the knowledge and experience of professional concierge is crucial to providing guests with quality recommendations for outings activities in the area. It is our job to steer and inform guests to the best possible and most genuine experiences that will fit within their interests and desires.
“A concierge must be prepared to keep asking questions when the answer or even the request is not obvious. A simple ‘no’ cannot exist. We must be ready to present options and alternatives through extensive research. Finding an answer to truly delight your guest and make them feel like they are your top priority is the most satisfying part of the job.”

What It Means to be a Les Clefs d’Or Conciege

Concierge Keys

The crossed Golden Keys of Les Clefs d’Or symbolize a heritage of perfection held to the highest moral and ethical standards. The keys are a promise. The bearer of said keys is the keeper of that promise to serve and protect travelers from near and abroad. Whether requesting something simple or complex, a travelers can be assured we are a trusted resource to the business person and vacationers alike. Always keeping guests’ safety, enjoyment and satisfaction in mind.

Membership is a Privilege – ENJOY IT
Wearing the Golden Keys is an honor – RESPECT IT
Our motto is “In Service Through Friendship” – EMBRACE IT

Shujaat Khan – Past President – 2005-2007
Les Clefs d’Or USA
Assistant General Secretary
Les Clefs d’Or International