Colleen R. Carpenter
The Power of Influence
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
When I relocated from Michigan to New Jersey, my first job was in New York at One World Trade Center. I worked in the Maritime Insurance industry at a company located on the 84th floor. The views from the office were incredible. I consider myself very lucky, not just because I had an opportunity to work in one of the famous “twin towers,” but because I was blessed to experience office management at its finest.
My interview was set up through an employment agency, and I was to meet with the Office Manager who was described to me as being “very regal.” That’s not a word you hear in everyday conversation. I was intrigued. For me, the word regal meant queenly, statuesque, proud. When I arrived for my interview I wasn’t disappointed, and could clearly see why the person at the agency referred to the woman in that manner. The manager, Ms. Hoefler, embodied “regal” in every sense of the word. She carried herself with confidence, head held high, with smooth, easy glides as she walked.
In time I learned that Ms. Hoefler had a combination of poise, assertiveness, and compassion for those around her. She had a way of correcting you when needed without making you feel embarrassed, and sharing important lessons along the way. Ms. Hoefler cared deeply about how you conducted yourself in an office setting and wanted you to do well; to be your best. She saw things in you that you didn’t see in yourself and nurtured those qualities. It seemed to be her mission to ensure that you represented the company well-from the way you dressed, answered the phone, or completed your work. When you didn’t get it right, she told you so, with love and firmness. A pushover she was not, which made me like her all the more.
These days as I observe various forms of office leadership (or lack thereof), I remember Ms. Hoefler and all the valuable, life-long lessons she taught me about being a good employee. I learned that a successful office environment starts from the top; the leader creates the tone and it trickles down to the staff.
One of the partners of that business also set the bar high in office leadership. The fact that he was tall, handsome, and personable didn’t hurt either! When he encountered you in the hallways, he didn’t walk by avoiding eye contact, he looked at you, smiled or gave a brief head nod. He acknowledged your presence. You felt appreciated and valued.
What a great place to work! There were company outings during the summer where you could bring your family members, and holiday parties at lovely venues. That job spoiled me for years to come, because I have compared it to every other job, office manager, and boss I have ever had.
As I reflect on that experience, I feel compelled to pass along that insight, especially at a time when I encounter employees (and sometimes employers) who rarely speak or smile as you conduct business with them. Who in the world decided that pleasant customer service and proper office demeanor are no longer a priority? This certainly doesn’t apply to all office cultures because some companies are definitely getting it right and I commend them for that.
Somewhere along the way, the tables have turned, and lackluster or poor customer service seems to be acceptable far too often. Why? As more service-related jobs are being phased out by automation, I can’t help but wonder if this article is a moot point. We have automated voice prompts receiving and directing phone calls, grocery stores with no cashiers, “Alexa” answering our questions, cars that drive themselves, and robots replacing many tasks (and jobs).
I realize more every day that we’ll never go back to the way things were. So, where does this leave us? What can today’s business leaders, office managers, and supervisors do to make an impact on those in their charge? I believe that employees you hire should leave the company better off than they came due to your leadership, guidance, and training. It is my hope that those in supervisory positions remember that today–and every day–they have an opportunity to influence those around them and make a lasting, positive impression. Who knows, you may leave a wonderful legacy of excellent service that stays with employees you've trained for the rest of their lives. I’m so grateful that Ms. Hoefler did that for me.