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  • Reverend James Squire

Puttin’ On The Ritz During A Pandemic

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

In the Gospel of Luke we hear, “If someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well. (Luke 6:29)

“Thank you for that act of supererogation!” It is a phrase that I hope that you can use often to thank another person. Supererogation means to “go above and beyond the call of duty”. When I hear the word I think first of the military and essential workers helping to take care of people during the Pandemic. But supererogation can be a word that reflects that gesture in our everyday lives. We can actually “learn” to do things for others that elicits that response. We remember those people who thank us and make us feel special. Helping others above and beyond the call of duty can be contagious spreading among friends and family.

We know it when we hear phrases like: “I don’t know how to thank you!”; “You always seem to know what I need most at the time.”; You really go the extra mile, don’t you!”

You have to be intentional about becoming a person who helps others in a special way. If I go to a Whole Foods Store and ask a member of their team where an item is, they would more often than not walk with me to the location of the item rather than just to mention the aisle where the item is located. My son and daughter in law have done hiring for Whole Foods, and they reflect that most people can do the work that is required in a grocery store so they are looking for employees who they sense could be the most helpful to others.

My wife and I have had the opportunity to be guests at the Ritz Hotel where the employees take acts of supererogation to the highest level. They always do a little more than they are asked to do so I thought I would do some research on why this is so and how people like you and me can learn something from them.

Most organizations have a motto or mission statement. The motto of the Ritz is: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” There is an equality of helped and helper there not someone in an inferior position serving others in a superior position. Jim Collins who wrote the Business Bible, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. He indicates that you have to first get the right people on the bus. In the case of the Ritz, they are not looking for good servants, they are looking for employees who will see themselves as ladies and gentlemen.

Every employee from housekeeping to management can spend $2000 per day per quest to resolve a guest’s problem WITHOUT seeking permission. Each employee takes 250 hours of development training in social emotional intelligence and leadership every year as well. I highlight the WITHOUT above because the Ritz has an advanced form of leadership. If the CEO of the Ritz were asked who is most important in his organization, he would not say “the customer”. He would say, “My employees for they have the most direct impact on the customer’s experience.” It is similar to a school president who might be asked the same question. The best answer is not “the students”. It would be the faculty that are having the direct contact with the students each day. If an athletic director at the school is asked that question, she would not say “the players”. She would say, “My coaches for they have the direct contact with the student athletes. Coaches don’t run onto the field to play in a game. School presidents don’t have the most contact with students, and the CEO and managers at the Ritz don’t has as much contact with the people who come to the hotel as there employees do. It is an interesting way to think about leadership. Leaders empower others so that the customer, student, or student athlete have an optimum experience.

This empowers the people who are really making the difference to do a great job. Trust must be present for this to occur. That is why WITHOUT is written in capital letters in the employees’ contracts.

You can’t pass a person on the Ritz staff who wouldn’t greet you with a genuine “hello” and “how are you” with a welcoming smile, and the key is you don’t feel that it is fake. It is an exchange that feels genuine because it comes from a lady or a gentleman to another lady or gentleman.

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