The Beauty of a YES Face


My hometown is located on the Big Island of Hawaii. I was fortunate to be able to fly home recently to celebrate my Grandmother’s 100th Birthday. Nothing like celebrating a long life, well –lived. I also had the privilege of showing my wife and kids where I grew up and introducing them to their rather large extended family.

Along with meeting and enjoying family, we also took a tourist approach to the island. On our first evening we went to a local restaurant. My family was taken in by the ambiance; the open-air layout, the view of the ocean, the spectacular sunset.  I think they were ready to move in and take up residence there if that possibility was on the menu. Our server was unbelievably attentive. She took our order, engaged with everyone at the table, smiled, laughed, listened, made suggestions for alterations to the menu – she was amazing. I’m pretty sure that if we had ordered the moon with a side of french fries, she would have made it happen. She had a YES!face.  It was the perfect start to our island adventure.

Over the next several days we played in the pool, enjoyed some time at the beach, did some shopping (okay, a lot of shopping), rented scooters, it was all quite magical. A couple of days into the trip, we found ourselves in the same area of town as the first night of our stay. It was around sunset and we had no dinner plans. ‘Let’s go to that one restaurant again!’ said my youngest.  We all thought it was a great idea and headed that direction.

This time, rather than being greeted by a smiling and attentive server, this one was – well, dour. She stood her post like a sentinel taking orders around the table as opposed to engaging each guest when ordering. She was taken aback when my youngest wanted to order first.  The two special request menu inquiries were met with a stern and resounding no.  No alternative suggestions. There was no, ‘let me see what I can do.’ Or, ‘We don’t usually do that, but have you considered this item? It’s delicious and made to order.’ Instead each request was met with a succinct and terse, ‘No.’ followed by a stare.  

And silence.  

This trip to the restaurant found us contending with a NO! face.

It was the same restaurant. The environment and ambiance were the same.  The sunset was just as beautiful, yet we had two polar-opposite experiences. The menu was unchanged, yet we left with a bad taste in our mouth.  Quite frankly, had our first exposure to this establishment been handled like our second – there would have been no return business.  The only variable that changed was the staff member who interacted with us.

Both servers represented the face of the company.  One server displayed a ‘Yes!’ face, the other displayed a ‘No!’ face. One face beckoned, ‘Come back, soon!’ The other stated, ‘Hurry up and leave,’ which we did. Both times.

Just as important as having your on-hold concept match your outdoor advertising concept, it is equally important to have the personality of your staff members match the service you provide.

Was one a ‘good employee’ and the other a ‘bad employee’ at the restaurant?  Not necessarily.  It could be as simple as the first server was extroverted – the other introverted. Perhaps the second server was not working in her area of strength. None the less, her presence and interaction with my family put a negative spin on our experience. This is important to consider since at that moment she was the face of the organization. Which makes it all the more important to hire the right person, with the right attitude, and the right skillset for the right position. 

Marcus Buckingham is at the forefront of the strengths movement and has many resources available. One of my favorites is the book ‘Go Put Your Strengths to Work.’  In light of our experience on vacation, I wish the owner would have implemented this strengths-based strategy and hired an entire staff with the strengths displayed by our first server. Had that been the case, I’m sure both experiences at the restaurant would have been stellar.

Put the right people in the right position and they will shine brightly in that role and reflect well on your company. Or, to paraphrase the Jim Collins’ analogy in Good To Great, it’s not enough to have the right people on the bus, they need to be in the right seat.  By making this slight adjustment, you can ensure your customers a YES! face experience every time.


Tom McTee, Super-Genius

Tom McTee