Steve Rush: Today I am joined on the show by a Chief Delighting Officer. What does a chief delighting officer mean? I hear you say. Well, I am delighted to say that on the show today, we have one of the world’s best designers and creators of leadership development programs. He is a TEDx speaker. He has spoken in over 18 countries around the world and has helped thousands of leaders and managers in more than a hundred companies please introduce Avi Liran. Avi, welcome to the show.
Avi Liran: Thank you for having me.
Steve Rush: So the whole principle of delighting and delighting people might sound a bit fluffy, but you have been able to save managers and organizations millions of pounds and help generate millions of pounds in revenue. So just tell us a bit, about what does delight mean in this sense?
Avi Liran: Great questions and I would say that one of the case studies that I like most is with Marina Bay Sands. It is an iconic, integrated resort that has I believe it is the most frugal, integrated resort in the world they make a billion dollar a year and when they started, they became the biggest venue in Singapore with two thousand six hundred and fifty six rooms. You can imagine what would be the line for check-in and housekeeping. And they had a lot of teething problems and they had a change of leadership. They got fantastic training for service, which means that they were supposed to be great in service. It is an iconic place, but because of leadership, leadership was transactional and there was one, that was actually toxic and he was a COO the recent one. He would go and tell people you are fired just like Donald Trump. The problem with that was the people that came all the way from Vegas with the families got really, scared so it was a culture of fear and no wonder within just a few months they got to a horrible score on TripAdvisor. It was one hundred and forty. Then they called us and we work for about seven months together with the top 250 leaders. And within seven months, of going and grinding into what does it mean to become a chief delighting officer and making a commitment to be one, they managed to go up all the way to 36 place on TripAdvisor’s.
The commitment that the COO, the new COO that came instead of the gentleman that was there before him. When he started the first workshop with us he say, I took these guys to take you all the way out of your comfort zone. We think that may look fluffy, but if you don’t want to be in Marina Bay Sands, a leader that will be delighting his team, if you don’t want to have joy and you don’t want to take care of your teams as a family please prepare a CV and go to Sentosa, which is the competition. I think that he made the commitment so well that every time that we had the workshop, he would come to say exactly that thing and at the end of the few days’ workshop, he would hand the certificate to each one of the leaders, shake their hands, look in their eyes and say, you are chief delighting officer. I think that was his commitment and the commitment of the leaders afterwards so cascaded. Then it is like they all went on the highway because they had the fantastic framework of service and they are doing extremely well. This is probably the most profitable single resort in the world.
Steve Rush: And that is amazing. Excellent story. Thank you for sharing what delight can mean in real sense. When was it that you stumbled across this principle of delight? How did that come about in your work and your life?
Avi Liran: Well, pretty, early. Everybody stumbles upon delight all the time. The question is all the guides us through.. We are going to see a lot of adversity in the world and lucky for me, I got fantastic parents and they were Holocaust survivors. They have seen the hardship, they escaped and they have seen their family slaughtered all in front of their very eyes and wounded and hungry and running for their life as refugees. And the inspiration came from my mum. I want to tell you a story that is not in my keynote or what you have seen. I remember after my father passed away and my mom as a doctor had two mortgages to pay and people will abuse and use her without paying her and she needed the money and one day in January it was raining cats and dogs and she came back after a home visit. And I asked her mum, so did you earn? And she said, no, and I was angry I say why? And she said, Avi you don’t understand. These people are so poor, they don’t have even money to go to A&E so I took the medicine because they can’t buy medicine and I gave them what the promotional people, the pharmaceutical company sales guys give to me. You don’t understand Avi, I have three ways that they charge people. The poor don’t have to pay. Normal people will pay normal, the rich people will pay double, and I tell them that.
And I think I learned from her so much about how to look at every person as a human, how to have compassion and kindness. She once caught me not giving coins to a person that opened his hand and asked for it and she told me Avi, who are you to judge? Because I say maybe, he has used the money for drugs or liquor, and she say, you know what? You always can give someone from what you have. Then I remember my father they did not have much and, you know, once a month to buy you ice cream. And I want to thank my father and I say thank you, say don’t thank me just bless me and bless me that every time I open the wallet, I have what to give to others. I grew up with people that were humble and kind and loving and at the same time did not have much, but they always had love to give and to smile and to help and I was blessed. I believe a lot of us in the world, no matter where we come from. And they’re a good example of not complaining about what life did to you and surrender to that but being great contributors and I learned it from them, I’m grateful to them.
Steve Rush: That is a great story. So the whole principle of being delightful. What do you think the reason is that some people would struggle with being able to feel a little freer and be more delightful in the workplace? What you think holds people back?
Avi Liran: I think that some bad experience in the past prevent us and make us more cautious. And it’s very interesting cause every time that they work with a group of leaders and they get to the essence of what is the engine of delight, probably we’re going to talk about it later. They come to me and say so what if people abuse me? And the fears are really what if I’m going to give too much? What if I’m going to be too friendly? I believe at a certain time, not allowing yourself to delight is like being fearful and deciding after the first time that you had a relationship break to decide I’m going to stay single for the rest of my life. The fact is that the neuroscience of delight teaches us that when you delight somebody else you are immediately delighted back, because what happen is that your brain produces oxytocin and then immediately kick starts the reward circuitry in the hypo-campus. Dopamine is release, serotonin is release, and we become happier. So yeah, there is a lot of bad experience in the past that prevent people from trying. Some people are also introverts and they feel that they don’t want to open up too much. Some people are simply not used to it. I would say fear but you know the antidote for fear is love and taking a step forward. My teacher and my mentor Lenny design a very beautiful, funny ritual about that. He asked you to put your hands in palm and say, I am afraid and I am going to do it anyway.
Steve Rush: And did it work?
Avi Liran: I guess so, because we don’t want to live in the prison of ourselves, and actually if you think about if you’re not delighting, you’re sitting in a prison when the door is really open. You just need to go out and you don’t have to do it in a rah-rah way. If you are introvert, there is a way to delight without making rah-rah. I don’t believe that…actually, I find leaders that are introverts are much more delightful and delighting than the ones that are extrovert.
Steve Rush: Said some really interesting points I want you to explore with the Avi because as a coach, you know, there are those extroverts who you can see physically and non-verbally there delight or not as the case may be. How do you notice that and how do you respond to that with somebody who is introverted?
Avi Liran: Well, I think let’s go into the essence of delight. What makes people delighted? And if you get that notion, if you only get this, I’ll talk about the engine of delight and I’ll make it as a question. What is the one verb, one word that is also an action is also a mind-set, a way of life that if you do it unconditionally, consistently, continuously, it will be the quickest way for you to earn trust, gain influence, feel a sense of belonging even if you are the new kid in the organization and feel happier together? I will repeat. What is the one word, one-way of life, one attitude that is also a verb that if you do that unconditionally, consistently and continuously, it will be the quickest way for you to earn trust?
Steve Rush: I am going to have a guess at something like contribution or making a difference.
Avi Liran: You got it. Contribution and contribution is what you do, and whether you are introverted or extroverted does not really matter but if, you have the mind-set of contribution, because there is a lot of science that say, when we give to other people, we feel happier or because we feel better about ourselves. There is lots of evidence from science that we are much happier when we give to others. We transform from a place of helplessness to helpfulness. Contribution is one level about the giving because giving is I give you what I feel that you need, in delight we call contribution as something that add values that the other person needs and if you seek to do that, whether you are introvert or extrovert, you’re going to do well.
Steve Rush: Thanks Avi, that is really insightful and I think can resonate with people who recognize themselves that they’re introverted or indeed extroverted. You have done quite alot of research into the subject of delightfulness and the role that that plays in culture. What kind of cultures do you see in organizations in the role that delight them plays to that?
Avi Liran: I see a culture that is transactional where the leader just care about results and does not care about you. It can vary on part it could be even toxic and I see Cargill Culture, you know, it is nice to work here, but there is not really an attachment. You don’t feel like you’re working for or feel a sense of belonging. It is nice to work here. People are nice. They give you a nice salary. They develop you quite a bit. It is not really delightful culture and on the other side of the spectrum, I see cultures that try to be too delightful. Pleasing, as you say, and they go Pollyanna, happy fluffy and soon they are not responsible for the cash flow and they go down the drain because they forget that there is a discipline that you need to have all the things, all the results together.
And in the middle, there is a culture of delight where you have both the brain and the results oriented leaders. At the same time, they pay attention to the heart and they pay attention…and they have different kind of mind-set, the leaders, I would say that if you make them go through what will be your retirement party, who’s going to be there? Are they going to clap their hands so they are happy that you’ve just left or are they going to have some tears and they’re going to be there hugging you and making a big celebration to stay in touch with you afterwards? And what do you want to see when you retire? Do you want to see people who say, oh, he is so successful because I was developing that person, this kind of culture is where the leaders understand that the way that they’re going to develop their leaders, that’s going to be working there.
Interestingly enough, we talked about contribution in the last day of the chief delighting officer course; we do an activity that is called the circle of contribution. I am not going to go too much into it because we are not going to have time but in the end, we find the five top contributors in the company. Don’t ask me how but we find them? And we make them sit in a panel and we ask them, so why do you contribute? Now, of course, they are going to see a lot of nice things. Oh, it is obvious but here is what is not obvious. I notice that four or three out of the five top contributor in the company are very tired. They work so much to help other people that they are very tired but one or two of them is not and, you know, having this working on the circle of contribution hundreds of times I ask the question. So what do you do differently? And I realized that the these two that are not tired develop the habit that they teach the people that are reporting to them how to become a contributor and that’s interesting because they are surrounding themselves with people that have the contribution mind-set and when we interviewed, I have to give credit to my partner, Daniel Lee. He did also the research. We interviewed two hundred and twenty people in thirty-seven countries, six continents, and 50 percent of them are ladies. We got to understand more about delighting and how all of these leaders shied away from being Pollyanna pleasers, and they went immediately to the soft spot, and one of the people that we interviewed was Craig Smith, the President of Marriott in Asia-Pacific. And he said sometimes people will do things for you that they would not do for the organization and this is how friendly you should be with them. So on one hand, don’t be fluffy Pollyanna, but at the same time, you have to be friendly and care for the people, for them to follow you.
Steve Rush: So what if I am a leader and I am having a really, bad day. I recognize I need to be the chief delighting officer at the organization. If I am in a bad mood, I just can’t shrug it. Tell me, how would you help me get out of that? What could I do that would help me be present and think about that?
Avi Liran: Well, I would like to invite you and the audience to do something with me, so I will answer but first I’m going to ask you, tell me, what do you do on a bad day when people ask you, how are you?
Steve Rush: I guess the internal voice always says, yeah, I am having a great day. I am fine. Often fine is what you hear and when I hear that, I think probably you are not fine.
Avi Liran: And what if you are a salesperson who need to sell something and I am asking you, how are you? And you know, the more you say, oh, I’m great or fantastic and all this your body will say something else. But the problem is also the more you project yourself to be better, you going to feel exhausted after the day where you’re actually pretending to be happy and you’re not and you’re going to be exhausted at the end of the day, you’re going to be inauthentic to begin with. What if I’m going to share with you a short exercise that will help you about that? And I invite also your audience to be with me. I would ask you to put your hands on the two sides of your hands as if they were horse blinders and every time you are going to say yes to a question of mine, please put your hands, your palm of your hands out one inch and up one inch, all right. Every time you say yes. Okay?
Steve Rush: Got it.
Avi Liran: So I will start with the first question. Did you wake up on a bed?
Steve Rush: Yes.
Avi Liran: Yes. Okay. Put your hands one inch to the side, one inch up. Do you have the roof above your head?
Steve Rush: Yes.
Avi Liran: Yes. All right, so you know that more than 200 million people don’t have it and you have probably 10 million refugees at this point in time. Do you have running water?
Steve Rush: Yes.
Avi Liran: Yes. Well, you know that one billion people need to walk for more than an hour in order to get water. Do you have ability to provide for your family?
Steve Rush: I sure do.
Avi Liran: Yes, say yes. Put your hand one inch to the side and one inch up. Do you live in a free country?
Steve Rush: Yes.
Avi Liran: Yes. Do you have friends?
Steve Rush: Yes.
Avi Liran: Do you have people, that you love and people love you? And the list go on and on and your hands should be by now in the v positions making forty five and ninety degrees and you are in the centre and you look up and you say, I have all this and billions of people don’t. And if you have all of this and I’m going to ask you in comparison to those who don’t. Are you blessed?
Steve Rush: For sure.
Avi Liran: So you are blessed, and if you are blessed, can you be grateful for this blessing?
Steve Rush: Yeah, really neat.
Avi Liran: So what if you ask me Avi on a bad day. Avi, how do you feel?
Steve Rush: Yes. How do you deal with that when maybe you are feeling less? How do you get into that space?
Avi Liran: So when you ask me how do I feel, I am going to tell you blessed and grateful and sad or blessed and grateful and extremely angry. Whatever the situation would be and because I know that 90 percent of my life is great and the 10 percent when we put the horse blinder we only see in the morning what is not there. The to do list, the things that we need, people that hurt us, the emotions, the negative things that happen and how are we going to resolve all this and we don’t see the rest, and what we did we expanded the horizon to see and to recognize the truth. I am not talking about inventing things to make myself feel better. I just acknowledge what I do have at this point of time and the interesting thing when I tell someone let’s say I tell my employee I’m blessed, I’m grateful and very angry. They can connect with me because they see that I am human. I did not pour on them my negativity.
I gave them a way to have the cushion that I am not in a good state of mind but at the same time, I want to be delightful. And when you look at your employees, if you want to give them permission, you create what you call organizational safety, because if they can come to you and say the same thing. If you are running a frontline or a business, you could see, oh, you know what why don’t you go to back office today or take half a day off I’ll cover for you, and that is where you can make the delightful connection to understand. That is why I would like to be those first to take the chief delighting officer. By the way, everybody in the world is a chief lighting officer or can be a chief delighting officer. We have eight billions of us. I took it as a gimmick to make me as a chief delighting officer, but I am not the only one. The minute that you step into the mind-set of delighting other people, you are a chief delighting officer.
Steve Rush: Yeah, I like that and often it is sometimes giving ourselves a permission to think differently and behave differently with a different label. And being a chief delighting officer that gives us the capabilities that come along with that, too.
Avi Liran: Absolutely.
Steve Rush: Avi, you have also developed a technique and a solution, haven’t you? So that wherever you go now, you get treated like a VIP. I would love it if you could share with our listeners how you can end up by going into a bar or a hotel or a coffee shop and get that VIP treatment just by being delightful.
Avi Liran: I will tell you an interesting story. A few years ago, I went to Manila. I usually stay there at the Peninsula Hotel because the general manager at that time was my client. I was in the lobby. I was talking to an H.R. Director of one of the top telecom companies. He had coffee. I could not have another coffee so I got water and, when the waiter came, he gave him a cookie and my water comes without cookie, and I want a cookie. So I stopped the waiter and I saw his name and I pretended that I had a conversation with a cookie and I said, the cookie feels lonely. Would you consider giving me one more cookie so it can get marry? He smiled and within a minute, he brought three cookies to me and that was delightful.
So what I did is I tried to stop the first person that I saw and to say who is the supervisor on the floor. She said I am, and I said, oh, okay, great. I want to tell you that this gentleman did a great job and he delighted me. I did not expect that and he made me smile. It was very fun and I asked her for the email of the hotel manager was my friend and the general manager is above him. I took the email; I sent a thank you letter. Her name was Sonia. What I received back in the email was the picture of the gentleman with three cookies, and that was really delightful. I think that when you have a mind-set of appreciating people, calling them by the name, understanding that sometimes they’re pressed, it’s understaffed and they’re really doing the best. Sometimes, you know, I go and I take the small tissue and I clean the table a little bit because I see they are so engaged and I understand them. I tried to have a conversation, and by the way, I forgot that the name of the gentleman was Millard and Millard is also on my Facebook and he already left the peninsula and we still are in touch, and if you create conversation and make people feel that they’re human because they’re serving you.
Nobody goes to the F&B industry, hotel or airlines because of the high pay and the short shifts. It is a very demanding job and they are working for such a small pay, your acknowledgement of them as a person means so much to them. If you are kind to them, create a conversation, be thankful and grateful. Guess what happened? A few days later when I came, the hotel was packed. There was not a place to sit, and Millard found me, and found the only chair available and gave me a VIP service. Every place that I go, I make notes to be nice and be kind and not to be bitchy. And by the way, if you are dating someone and that someone is misbehaving to the people, that should be a red alert for you, because the way that they behave to other people is the way that is the real them. Be very careful from people that are not behaving nice to other people. You are defined not where everything is comfortable for you. You are not a big shot if you don’t treat other people nice. That is the real person that you are. You are treating them with your pain. You don’t need to inflict your pain on other people.
Steve Rush: So what I am hearing is if you are delightful to others, you will get delight in return.
Avi Liran: Most of the time and sometimes you need to enter into doses of compassion. They are three tools that you need to know because some people will be there to abuse you and I call them the black holes of delight. When you see your hand disappear and people try to take a bite of you have a conversation with them about it, and if you see that they insist on being black holes, then just disconnect and move on, because ninety five percent of the people you’re going to meet are waiting to be delighted and waiting to reciprocate. Because the nature of delight is, once we are delighted we feel compelled to delight back.
Steve Rush: And Avi if you could give our listeners your top three leadership hacks. What would they be?
Avi Liran: I am not sure that I know how to hack the system for not working hard. Everybody that tells you, it took me about 14 years to become an overnight success. The first thing we talked already about is a mind-set of contribution. I think the second thing, when people don’t behave in the way that you would like them to behave you need to set up the role of trying to understand what their pain is. If possible, use compassion. If compassion does not work use pity. If pity does not work, disconnect but don’t get sucked to black holes and their negativity. I have four pillars when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do the blessed, grateful exercise because I know that no matter how difficult and problem and you know, we had a coronavirus here in Asia, entire industry is suffering from massive losses.
I guess in Asia, a trillion dollar was shave and we are in the service industry. And, you know, the events were cancelled so if you’re not having the ability to be less than grateful on the brink of a day, you’re going to suffer. The second pillar of the day have for myself, I would say that I tried to change what I can, but I also understand there’s a limit to what I can do and I accept whatever is impossible for me to accept because what you resist persists. The third pillar that I have is love. I learned to love myself at the time, especially after a big problem in my family. I was really, miserable and even depressed. I did not know how to love myself, but I learned how to do it, and I love what I do. I love my team. I love my work. I love my customers. Actually, I don’t have customers only friend, love my girlfriend. I love my kids. I love the world, and the last thing of course is coming back to contribution. People like you are giving fantastic contribution that was one of the reasons that I immediately say yes, with a lot of good tips. I am grateful for you to choose me to be here today to give value to your audience.
Steve Rush: Avi that is awesome. Thank you. We be grateful for you being here too. This part of the show we are going to ask our guest to we…call this effectually Hack to Attack. Time in your past where you screwed up, things haven’t work out as well as a result of that you now have some learning or some foundations that you use positive in your work or your life. Maybe if you need to share with our listeners your hack to attack.
Avi Liran: I think stories. People like stories much more. I called it convert the shit into fertilizer. In the contract of life, it says thy shall have adversity, challenges and issues but in the fine print, it says, thy shall not dwell in the shit, thy shall convert the shit into fertilizer.
Take one example. When I flew business with Turkish Airlines to Geneva, my suitcase came in shreds, and they would not pay me back and it was a struggle, and then a new GM came to Singapore is name is Genghis. And he was a righteous man and he saw the injustice and immediately arrange everything to be right. Not only that, he invited me for lunch, and immediately after that I invited him for lunch and we became great friends.
And guess what? Turkish Airlines took me to work for them. Actually, I got some of my great paying gig with them travelling the world and going to different places and in the world giving my keynote speeches and getting paid and not only got to one of the best friends in my life. I think everything that happens to you is giving you something. I would say that even a kick in the ass is kind of a push forward, and I learned so much more from my worst bosses than I learned as much from what not to do than my good bosses in life. And if you have this mind-set, you know that almost everything, with the exception of people that are psychopaths, stay away from them, you could turn around situation.
Steve Rush: Some wise words Avi. I am really, grateful for you sharing your hack to attack. If you could time travel back to when you were twenty-one and bump into your twenty-one year old self, what would be the one bit of advice you would give Avi at twenty-one?
Avi Liran: Well, there are several things that I did not get in my life and maybe that what has made me who I am. I would not change a bit because I would not be the person that I am now. Of course, all of us want to see the natural thing is to look at my deficiencies and say, oh, I would give myself a Stephen Covey book so I am going to be more efficient with time. Then I would not be who I am now. I’ll be telling him, just be yourself because you developed so many beautiful things and naturally you had the beauty of finding the best in other people and to appreciate them, and if this only one thing I would change is I would be so much kinder to my mom. And if you are a young man today, I would recommend to you that your parents, loving parents just be kind to them. Sometimes we treat people better than the people that we really love because we can have the excuse that we could be ourselves. I would say you have to be the best version of yourself for the people that you love. They are the number one people in your life, and that is maybe the only tip that I would give to make sure you pamper and you carry with pride and great love the people that deserve it the most.
Steve Rush: That is lovely words. Thank you. So Avi I guess folks listen to this and thinking. How do I get to see, hear, or learn a little bit more about Avi work? So how can we connect you and connect them?
Avi Liran: Well, go to aviliran.com. You have a place to just give me a note, and by the way, you know, we are living in a beautiful world in a very tough time. Planets suffers and I see a lot of people share a lot of things about what’s happening in the world, but they do nothing. So here is something that I would do to you if you going to connect with me on my website. There is a place there where if you have a new-born I would actually buy a tree for your new-born cause I just bought 500 trees to plant. Why? Because I want my kids to have air. And if you have a new-born, there is a form over there you put also your postal address and we will send you a certificate, of course it’s all recycled paper, about the tree that was planted on the honour and hopefully you’re going to do the same. I think that delighting can’t be done alone, and maybe on the website, if you go to deliveringdelight.com you could even buy the shirt that says let’s delight, because I don’t believe I can delight alone. This is why if you in the audience become a chief delighting officer that you already are, just claim it spread the news around and if you have an event with your company and you want me to be your guest speaker, I will delight your audience and I make sure that they come with beautiful messages and unforgettable way. And thank you for having me around.
Steve Rush: Avi Liran it’s been absolutely delightful having you on our show, too. Thanks Avi.