My wife and I just spent a wonderful week in Hawaii, a chance to relax and reflect. Of course, my mind is never far from the topic of decision making. The first night we were there, Wendy discovered the clothes iron in our room wasn’t working. She called the hotel’s front desk to ask for a replacement. Five minutes later, there was a knock on the door. The housekeeper asked what she could do to help us. My wife told her the iron didn’t work and asked for a replacement. The housekeeper said, “Absolutely,” and disappeared to retrieve one. Ten minutes later, she was back with the replacement and life moved on.

But I got to thinking, wouldn’t it have been easier to bring a replacement iron on the first trip? Between the time my wife first called and the replacement iron arrived, about 30 minutes elapsed. That’s a half an hour of someone’s time, at probably $15 per hour. Wouldn’t it have saved time and money to bring the replacement iron on the first trip? While this may not seem like a big investment of time and money, this sort of thing probably happens 50 times a day in a busy hotel. If each incident consumes 30 minutes, that’s 25 hours at $15 per hour or $375. Multiply that by 365 days and housekeeping is spending $136,875 replacing irons, delivering towels and so on. I recognize these are essential services, but reducing this amount by half if the staff is on it’s toes saves the hotel $68,438 per year.

Now you may be thinking, “Who’s got time for focusing at such a granular level?” But what could the hotel do with $68, 438? Even if you’re not in hospitality, what could you do with this kind of money in your business? This is a presence-of-mind issue. By thinking one or two steps ahead, this housekeeper would have saved herself 20 minutes and a lot of walking. Of course, we have to assume the person at the front desk communicated the message properly. If, instead the housekeeper heard something like, “Hey, some lady in 302 needs something,” on the radio, that’s a whole different issue.

So what can you do to improve presence-of-mind in those you supervise? Here are three simple suggestions: 1) Collect examples of the little ways to save time and money in your workplace, such as the one I mentioned above. Rather than dismissing them as too small to worry about, calculate the impact over a year. You might be surprised at how much money is involved.

2) Explain these examples during your regular staff meetings. Rather than covering them all at one gathering, discuss a different one each time. In the process, you’ll be planting seeds and getting your people to think about similar situations. After all, you can’t dictate the way they solve problems, but you can encourage their creativity.

3) Reward those who make the effort to sharpen their presence of mind. This might be a gift certificate, a day off with pay, buying a tank of gas or something similar. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it does have to be meaningful. Your people need to see that thinking one or two steps ahead has a measureable impact on their efforts, the company’s time and the bottom line and that they will be recognized for doing so.

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