Start with a Smile

What happened to the simple act of smiling?

photo: Daniel Corneschi @corneschi

photo: Daniel Corneschi @corneschi


I know there is a lot going on in the world to be upset about, but for heaven’s sake, can we just smile a little?

This post is going to be pretty simple, because this action is pretty simple. Bottom line: if anyone on your staff ever talks with or meets a customer, they need to smile. It should be a part of the job description. For that matter, this shouldn’t be the expectation with just customers, but with fellow staff members.

A smile does matter. Every had a Surly Server? You walk in, sit down at the bar and the person behind the bar looks angry. I’ve asked bartenders and servers if they are okay and they are like, “What? Why?” “Oh, you seemed so upset and irritated, I just wanted to check.” Seriously?

I’m not suggesting fake, “it’s my pleasure” sort of smiling. That’s exhausting to everyone involved.

At my house, a glass of wine probably costs me about $3. ($15 bottle of wine, etc.) When I am paying $14 – I am paying for more than the wine that is in that glass. I am paying for the experience. The bartender is a critical part of that experience. When he is a grump, the value of that glass of wine just went wayyyyy down.

There is science behind the power of a smile; it has to do with many things, including mirror neurons. You can read more about it, but you probably already get the idea.


There is literally a region of the brain that reacts to smiling. Yale University psychology professor and author Marianne LaFrance explains how smiles can do everything from make us look younger to shifting the power. For more info on this, her book, Why Smile? is a great management book.

I’m sure there is an exception, but almost everyone can smile. I was once in a meeting with a large hotel group and we were deciding on employee of the month. Once while in one of these meetings, Alicia (names changed to protect . . . . .) from accounting was nominated and was the team’s favorite.

“She’s so sweet.” “She never makes a mistake.” “She has two great kids.”

“But wait,” I said, “Alicia always looks so angry. I’ve never even seen her smile.”

“Well, she is in accounting, away from the guests - that’s okay.”

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“Noooooooooooo.” (I said) “She walks across the grounds several times a day, passing many guests. We are in the world of hospitality. How can put someone up as a role model in a resort hotel if they don’t SMILE?” She works in hospitality, people. She needs to smile.

A smile can improve and repair relationships or ease conflict. It’s a way of saying to the other person that you can be trusted.”
— Marianne LaFrance

I know — it’s not always easy.

  • The culture needs to be one where people are simply happy.

  • Systems need to be in place to ensure that problems are dealt with in a logical way.

  • Creativity needs to be encouraged and heard.

  • The staff needs to feel like they are lucky there - their friends are jealous!

That and so much more is a great topic for another post. In the meantime, let your team know that smiling is part of the picture. But, don’t forget to give them a reason to do so.

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    ps (perspective shift)