By Stephen T. Messenger
November 16, 2021
As every individual walked in the door for the first time, I shook their hand and thanked them for being part of our team, and it mattered
It’s awkward meeting people, especially when you’re assigned to a new group. In those initial stages of team building, it’s important to get off on the right foot.
I recently led a newly formed team where we had to spend a few weeks at an out-of-state hotel. Some of us of us arrived the day before to prepare for the event.
We assigned a greeter to welcome everyone and make sure they arrived safely. They filtered in over a seven-hour period late into the night, and there were no issues, but it just felt like we didn’t greet them properly—leaders can always do better.
Fast forward to the next month when we welcomed a different team. Trying something new, I really wanted to impress upon this new group how important their job was and how thankful we were to have them. We wanted to start on the right foot. Here was the revised plan:
- Meet Them at the Door. As the one in charge, I wanted to personally greet them, shake their hand, and thank them for coming.
- Welcome Them as a Group. The whole team was hanging out to say hi when they arrived. They immediately were welcomed by multiple participants and were embraced as friends. We encourage new arrivals to stick around and greet the next participants as well.
- Provide Information. We drew up a one-page handout with timelines, restaurants, frequently asked questions, and information they could take to their rooms.
- Stay Up Until They Arrive. Yeah, some arrived very late. But we greeted every person on the team no matter the hour.
What we saw was a more cohesive, responsive, positive, and integrated group the next day. They already knew who we and some of the others were, had gotten over the initial awkwardness and small talk, and built some relationships before the event even started.
Greeting people at the door, no matter if they are higher or lower in your organizational hierarchy, sets conditions for future success. To translate this into everyday terms:
- If someone is coming to your building for the first time, stand outside and wait for them.
- When someone is visiting your workspace, get up and move to the entryway to shake their hand.
- During a meeting you’re hosting, thank everyone for coming and, if able, greet them before the meeting starts
- Hold the door for the other person.
Meeting them at the door sets conditions. It makes leaders more approachable, human, and engaging. This small act of servitude bears great fruit and immediately shows that you’re willing to build relationships and lay a foundation of teamwork.
Sometimes, you can’t always be there and that’s okay. Once I was pulled away by something important. A few times it was just too late for everyone to stay up and only one or two remained behind. But the representative should always welcome them on behalf of the leader who then needs to follow-up the next day with those they missed.
Once, as I was waiting in the hotel lobby for the last arrival after midnight, I questioned if this was worth it. This final person I’d known for a few months, was on my team at home, and he’d already said he’d be late and see me tomorrow. But I wanted to thank him when he arrived.
As he entered the hotel, weary from a long trek across the country, I did notice the surprise in his face and gratefulness that his leader cared enough to greet him at the door. It was worth it.
Trust is not given, it is earned. Door greeters earn trust with every encounter.
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