“The Jerry Experience”

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One of the tools we use is in our business is the Clifton Strengths assessment, an online test that measures an individual’s unique natural gifts and talents (called “themes”). The results, when combined with a coaching debrief, provide insight that can allow someone to maximize their strengths and develop potential. All of this has the intention of enhancing engagement and performance, which can lead to higher job/life satisfaction.

While there is a standard pattern to the debriefs, part of what makes them such a delight is the person I am coaching gets to spontaneously share how their themes show up in their life and work. This usually leads to interesting information and anecdotes. To be honest, I think I get as much out of the interactions as the person being coached does!

During one of the debriefs (with a lovely gentleman we shall call “Jerry”) we were discussing how he approached his work as an HR professional. I noticed that he had an undercurrent of hospitality that was inherent in everything he says and does. It was quite clear that he genuinely understood the concept of “brand” and strives to actively walk his out. I asked about how he had come to have this insight. He explained that, for a number of years, he had worked at a fancy hotel in a very famous zip code. At that organization, he realized that customer satisfaction was predicated on guest’s interactions with the staff. Therefore, he had the ability to make someone’s moment/day/stay really special. Early on in his tenure, he found that paying careful attention to the little details (learning someone’s name, greeting them warmly, remembering their preferences) paid great dividends (both literally and figurately). He relished how special it made the guests feel and everyone was better for the interaction (kind of like my own enjoyment of the debriefs). He called this “The Jerry Experience.”

Now, before going any further, I want to state that at Corona Consulting, we take confidentiality very seriously, so normally we don’t share anything that someone says in coaching. In this case, I was immediately struck by the importance of what I was hearing and let him know this would be a perfect blog topic. He kindly agreed and even said it would be okay to use his name (Many thanks, Jerry!!!).

As we continued to talk, it was clear he had brought his spirit of hospitality to his work in HR. I have often said that traditional HR is “very little H and not much R.” In many organizations, it’s much more of an old school personnel department, that begins and ends employment, but doesn’t concern itself too much with the stuff in the middle.

But the truth is, the stuff in the middle is the day to day living of life. It’s births, deaths, divorces, and diagnoses (AKA “qualifying events”) it’s missteps and work assignments (performance management) and its projects brought to a successful conclusion (whether they are celebrated or not). Think of it as the cream filling in an Oreo cookie; the chocolate wafers are held together by the stuff in the middle.

Over the long haul, the stuff in the middle ends up running together. Many of the things that happen would never make the highlight reel because they are simply too ordinary to recall. That’s what makes The Jerry Experience so special. It metaphorically stops time, for just a moment, allowing someone to be seen and valued, giving them safety and validation. These are the moments that make life sweeter, because they give dignity and affirm that someone matters.

Life is hard; it doesn’t always seem fair and it’s often confusing.

But I think each of us has the ability to provide our own version of The Jerry Experience to others. Perhaps its returning messages promptly, giving people credit when due, or simply not making someone feel silly when they don’t know an answer or make a mistake. So many things in life require big swings or Herculean efforts. The Jerry Experience hinges on the details; the tiny, mundane moments that, without witness, could be easily missed… you know, the stuff in the middle.

Without the cream filling, an Oreo is just two chocolate wafers. I mean, they’re good, but on their own, they are actually a little bitter. But when you add the stuff in the middle, well, that’s when you get something really special.