Kindness as Currency

They placed it on her pillow. It wasn’t the closest to the door. It required a level of consideration by the staff member who would repeat the action in potentially hundreds of rooms that evening. This small gesture exuded thoughtfulness. Tomorrow it would be 75 degrees and sunny. And because of Monica at the Ritz Carlton in New York, Central Park my wife could plan her wardrobe with one less step.

This weather slip was not the first I’ve seen. It wasn’t the design of the black and white photocopy or the clever copywriting that caught my attention. It was the tiniest extra step taken at turndown service to demonstrate the company’s commitment to their “Gold Standard” and “Credo:”

  • The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.
  • We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambiance.
  • The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

Nowhere during the reservation process, check-in, or in staying at the hotel had I seen this information displayed or exhibited. But, I felt it.

Years ago, I spent several hours observing the staff in the lobby at the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia. What was it that made this company so exceptional? I watched dozens of interactions between staff and guests, but it was upon returning to my room that I had my aha moment.

The impact happens in the details. You might appreciate a front desk clerk upgrading your room or housekeeping bringing up extra towels, but you’ll remember which hotel’s doorman walks the extra steps with you to a cab to keep you dry under his umbrella and then hands it to you to use and gets wet himself.

You’ll appreciate the waiter who keeps your coffee filled and hot, but you’ll remember the restaurant that is accommodating of your family with young children and how it made the experience so much more enjoyable.

Kindness is a priceless currency.

I often hold that weather slip up for students in my communications or management classes and ask, “Why does this slip of paper matter? What does it represent? How do you apply this to other businesses?”

In hospitality, the applications appear straightforward, but in associations and nonprofits, the application may seem, to some, opaquer.

How can we demonstrate to our members the same high level of valuation?

What does kindness look like in professional associations? As every grassroots movement will tell you, “start local.”

Start with considering, what zero-budget actions your association could take to demonstrate kindness to your members.

When members feel valued, they are far more likely to engage. When members experience value, they are far more likely to share with others about that experience. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful means of attracting new members. This is the ideal life cycle we seek to perpetuate as association leaders.

Ideas to jumpstart your own association’s internal conversation:

  • How do we interact with our members over phone, email, mail? What is our tone, timeliness, attentiveness? Can we improve?
  • How do we treat members at event check-in tables?
  • How do we engage with members at events?
  • How often do communicate with our members’ something of value?
  • How often do we ask our members for input AND then follow up regarding their feedback?
  • How can we show one member or member company each day/week/month they matter to us?
  • What is your extra step? Your weather slip?

In working with association and nonprofit clients over the years, I’m critically aware that introspection can fail to lead to sustained action. I get it.

If it were easy, we wouldn’t need you.

Even when the solution is “easy” or as engineers would say “elegant,” it doesn’t mean that energy isn’t required. It doesn’t presuppose it won’t be hard. Instincts are refined through experience and time. Making kindness second nature, authentic, and rooted in your mission will require both.

Small gestures and attention to detail are not reserved for luxury brands. They are a currency that is readily available to all, but incredibly difficult to master.

Todd VonDeak is the Founder and President of TVD Associates dedicated to providing strategy and management for associations and nonprofits. He has over 20 years experience in nonprofits across industries. He volunteers with the American Society of Association Executives and regional Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives and regularly presents at industry conferences.