The 4 Actions of Awesome Hospitality

These Actions of Awesome Hospitality? will help you manifest the power of approachability through your organizational front porches.

AWESOME ACTION #1: Go Beyond the Door
My friend, Pastor Bob Farr of the St. Peters Church of the Shepherd, told me about a man he encountered after the worship service one Sunday. Bob went into the lobby to say goodbye to some of his members. He noticed a man standing along by the coffee kiosk, so he approached him. He introduced himself and thanked him for coming.

In a reserved tone the guest said, "You know Pastor, I've been coming to this church for the past 9 weeks. I know I'm shy and all, but not one time has anyone said hello to me."

"Really?" Bob asked, "You know, our staff works very hard to be hospitable and friendly to everyone ? especially new members. I'm surprised nobody has approached you!"

"Well," he continued, "I am usually greeted at the door when I walk in, but that's it. Once I get through the lobby and into the service, I feel invisible. Anyway, this morning I told myself: today is the 10th and final time. It's my last chance. And if nobody says anything, I'm outta here. But, thanks to your hospitality beyond the door, I think I'll stick around."

Have you ever felt this way ? like someone made the initial effort to extend hospitality but their willingness trickled away after a few minutes? It's kind of like ordering your food at a restaurant, getting the food delivered by your server, and never seeing her again until the check comes. (As if delivering the food was all that mattered.)

My good friend Shep Hyken, CSP who is a motivational speaker and author of The Loyal Customer and Moments of Magic, says that "someone's assessment of excellent service is measured in proportion to the amount of time you spend after what's basic, needed or expected." So not unlike "Going Beyond Hello" in the Attitude of Awesome Hospitality?, the first step in the Actions of Awesome Hospitality? is also Going Beyond ? beyond the door, that is.

AWESOME ACTION #2: Talk to Strangers
One of the reasons we have difficulty going beyond the door and extending ourselves to The New Guy? is because we're afraid of talking to strangers. We live in a culture of fear that tells us strangers are different, so therefore they will hurt us. (Ironic, isn't it ? hospitality means "the love of strangers.")

This fear has a way of manifesting itself into our actions. Take public speaking, for example. It's the number one most common social phobia of humans. Why? Because they're afraid of being negatively judged by others ? and their performance is a reflection of that fear.

But do you know what the second most common social phobia among humans is? According to the Social Anxiety Association, it's talking to strangers. Lyn Lofland, in her book A World of Strangers, explained it perfectly: "Active avoidance of contact is constantly boosted by the fear of contamination from those are not like us."

Wow. Contamination. That's a powerful word. Combine that with our inherent fear of rejection ? albeit by a person we don't even know ? and it's no wonder people don't feel welcome at so many organizations!

But as the definition says, a stranger is someone with whom you have not yet been acquainted. So people make it out to be a lot scarier that it really is. And in the process of becoming an effective and engaging communicator one conversation at a time, you must have the courage to transform a stranger into a neighbor and neighbor into a friend. That's what hospitality is all about.

AWESOME ACTION #3: Dismiss Judgment
A few days before giving one of my Awesome Hospitality into Authentic Relationships? programs, I had dinner with my best friend (and mentor) William Jenkins. I asked him what he thought the major challenges to organizations were, to which he replied with this story:

"Every year when I used to teach high school English, the administration would send us our student lists about a week before classes began. Some teachers ? the moment they got their lists ? marched right back upstairs and spent the next hour making roll changes. They selected specific students they didn't want (or that didn't seem to belong) in their classes and switched them out.

I, on the other hand, took that time to get a cup of coffee! In fact, I didn't even look at my class list until the day classes began ? because I was going to teach everybody the same.

Anytime someone new walks into the door, the room or the organization, dismiss your judgment about them. Even if they look like they won't fit in ? they still deserve your hospitality. And it all starts with that first step onto someone's front porch.

AWESOME ACTION #4: Sacrifice Your Comfort
As I explained, the reason humans are so terrified of public speaking is because of the fear of being judged. But in addition to talking in front of scores of new faces, simply being in front of scores of new faces can be uncomfortable. And at every meeting of every organization, there's a good chance The New Guy? will experience this fear when they walk into their first meeting.

Let's take your Professional Association, for example. Imagine your monthly meeting takes place on a cold, winter morning at your local banquet hall. All the board members, staff and veterans show up a few minutes ahead of time at about 7:45 A.M. (They gotta get the closest seats and the hottest food!)

At 8:06, when the program begins and most people have already sat down to eat, in walks Aly, a newly registered member. She's already in a bad mood because she had to park seven blocks away. Huffing into a room full of strangers, hair out of place from the hike, she scopes out a place to sit. She feels terrible for showing up late and tries to be an inconspicuous as possible. To her dismay, there's only one seat left: the one all the way in the front of the room.

Aly reluctantly makes her way up to the front, turning as beet red as everyone watches her every move. Finally, after whispering an apology to the speaker she was so excited to hear, she sits down and takes out her notebook.

Has that ever happened to you before?

It's happened to me on a number of occasions. And not just because I have a non-existent sense of direction and couldn't arrive on time if my life depended on it, but also because members are often unwilling to sacrifice their comfort for someone new.

So if you've been a member of an organization for six months, a year or five years ? you've already become accustomed to the group. You're all settled in. And you've had enough time to get comfortable. Now you must reinstate the Golden Rule for the sake of The New Guy? and temporarily sacrifice your comfort. Extend awesome hospitality to that one person who so desperately needs to feel welcome; because if you don't ? they may never come back again.

And don't assume other people ? Greeters or otherwise ? will do this. If everyone assumes someone else will take action, nobody will take action. That's called diffusion of involvement.

Here some final Awesome Actions? you can use to ensure the comfort of new members:

  • Give up your seat in the back
  • Park as far away as possible
  • Bring someone new into your conversation
  • Don't buy a raffle ticket so they have a better chance of winning
  • Ask someone new to join your table
  • Invite them out with your group after the meeting
  • Allow the new person to talk as much as possible
  • © 2005 All Rights Reserved.

    Scott Ginsberg is a professional speaker, "The World's Foremost Expert on Nametags" and the author of HELLO my name is Scott and The Power of Approachability. He helps people MAXIMIZE their approachability and become UNFORGETTABLE communicators - one conversation at a time. For more information contact Front Porch Productions at

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