“The 20 Foot Rule”: Improving relationships.

A good friend of mine, Mike Vinton, has a rule that he runs his life by. He calls it the “20 Foot Rule”. He also works hard to instill this same “20 Foot Rule” philosophy into his employees.

When Mike first told me about this rule I figured it was some general rule of thumb for excavating or construction. After all, Mike owns a very successful asphalt paving-athletic track building company. So I assumed the 20 Foot Rule referred to a tape measure or how he measures the productivity of his crews. You know- lay 20 feet of asphalt every 5 minutes. Or install 20 feet of drainage tile every hour. That kind of thing.

But I should have known better since Mike’s a terrific leader. That’s right- the 20 Foot Rule is one of the small ways Mike expresses his leadership.  He explains:  “Whenever you get within 20 feet of someone, make eye contact and say hello.”

Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? But, how often do we avoid making eye contact with someone to keep from getting into a lengthy or uncomfortable conversation? Maybe we’re tired. Maybe we’re busy. Or maybe we just don’t want to be bothered right then.

Some years ago at the Strategic Planning program at Copperwynd in Phoenix, Scott Ostrander, the then general manager of that resort talked to us about how he empowers his staff to deliver uncompromising customer service. He stated that one of his secrets was to make it a point to make contact with each one of his employees every single day!

Wow!  That’s pretty tough duty when your business operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 60% of your staff doesn’t speak English as their primary language. Sounds to me like a variation on Mike’s 20 Foot Rule. And there wasn’t any question about the impact Scott’s “contact every day” rule had on the his staff at Copperwynd. They were truly phenomenal!

We can talk all day long about leadership, networking, team-building, and employee development. But if we’re not willing to send a kind word or friendly gesture to folks within twenty feet of us then we have a real leadership challenge.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the person in charge of customer service, a carpet cleaning service technician, a bookkeeper, a restoration employee OR the owner of your company.  You are also the person in charge of the “20 Foot Rule” … for yourself!

I talked with Mike again the other day.  The day before one of his most profitable customers had called ecstatic about one of Mike’s equipment operators.  Mike’s client was simply amazed how the the employee took the time and effort to climb get down off his machine and courteously introduce himself.  Sounds to me like the “20 Foot Rule” is working!

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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