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Allison’s Book Corner: July 2024 – The Power of Moments

This quarter’s Book Corner examines Chip and Dan Heath’s book, The Power of Moments. Here’s a quote from the book, which summarizes its premise:

Defining moments shape our lives, but we don’t have to wait for them to happen. We can be the authors of them. … Defining moments are the ones that endure in our memories.

The Heath brothers ask us to consider how to create more memorable experiences, rather than wait and hope they happen. Thinking in moments means being able to spot the occasions worthy of investment. In the work context, we can focus on creating moments for these two groups: (1) our employees, and (2) our customers.

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Transitions and milestones

We tend to remember flagship moments in our lives: the peaks (especially high points in our lives), the pits (especially low points in our lives), and the transitions (times when our lives changed or shifted drastically).

Let’s focus on just that last type of flagship moment in that list—transitions. What transitions do your employees experience at work? The most obvious one is their first day on the job. The authors spend quite some time bemoaning the typical first-day experience, which they describe as “underwhelming” for most people.

The first day is often a missed opportunity to make a good impression on new employees and connect them emotionally with our mission, vision, and values. Can you think of some no- or low-cost ways to make your employees’ first day stand out and bind you together?

Other opportunities to create powerful moments for our employees are celebrating milestone events, like promotions and the end of big projects. A promotion is a classic moment of pride. But it can also be a tough transition for some. Many people are promoted into their first supervisory job with no training in giving feedback, motivating others, or running staff meetings. The authors suggest combining a celebration of the honor of promotion with, for instance, a week’s worth of shadowing and counseling by a more experienced senior manager. Could you implement that idea in your organization?

“Occasionally remarkable”

Let’s focus now on our external customers. The authors point out that it’s easy for supervisors and managers to get trapped in an endless cycle of complaint management—trying to address and eliminate the situations and responses that customers complain about. As a leader, you probably even consider complaint management part of your regular job duties. So, what’s the downside to that approach?

For one thing, reacting to every customer complaint makes us always playing defense and never offense. In other words, we’re robbing ourselves of the opportunity to proactively create a memorable experience for our customers.

To exceed customer expectations and create a memorable experience, you need the behavioral and interpersonal parts of the service. You need the element of pleasant surprise. That comes when human beings interact.

One notable story from the book is the Magic Castle Hotel in Los Angeles. It’s nice enough, but certainly not posh; however, it’s regularly rated one of the top two hotels in LA on TripAdvisor. Why? Because they offer “occasionally remarkable” experiences for their customers. For example, at the small pool in their courtyard, there’s a red phone mounted to the wall; that’s the popsicle hotline. Customers pick up that phone anytime, ask for popsicles, and a fancy person in white gloves brings an assortment of popsicles on a silver platter, poolside. How fun is that?


Think for just a moment about the logistics of that decision by the hotel. It just means having one employee designated for popsicle delivery (who could be doing other tasks when not providing popsicles), a freezer, and some very cheap treats. And yet, it provides the “remarkable” every time. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “Beware the soul-sucking force of ‘reasonableness.’” Is it reasonable to have a popsicle hotline? No—it’s ridiculous! But that’s what makes it amazing and such a draw for customers.

So, of course my question to you is: What pleasant surprises can you offer your customers?

Take time this week to “think in moments”—recognize where the monotony of everyday work needs to be punctuated to commemorate a transition or a milestone. And join us virtually on August 23rd for our related half-day workshop, Powerful Moments: Creating Better Employee and Customer Experiences. See you there!

allison horak

Allison Horak is a speaker, trainer, and attorney. She helps organizations work more effectively through better leadership and communication practices.