Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 39 seconds

Valentine artAs the story goes, in the early 300s Constantine the Great sent out vast armies of men to conquer the world. The soldiers could be gone for years at a time. Overtime, soldiers who missed their families became melancholy and lost much of their will to fight. Constantine, seeing that families were at the root of his army's waning courage and resolve, decided to ban marriage all together. The mandate went over almost as well as trying to cure hunger by banning food.

Food for the belly and love for the soul are equally important for our survival. Recognizing the burning desire and human need for love, St. Valentine defied Constantine's order by marrying young couples in secret. His defiance landed Valentine in prison. Many of the young couples he had brought together in marriage started the tradition of passing notes and gifts of gratitude to him. He died in prison on February 14th as a martyr and the symbol of true love.

Over the centuries, Valentine's Day has evolved into a $14 billion dollar extravaganza- driving the sale of 180 million roses (mostly red) and 36 million heart-shaped boxes of candy. I remember one of the most successful fundraisers in High School was the campaign where we sold carnations and suckers (packaged with a personalized message) to be delivered to classmates on Valentine's Day. The most popular kids lined up day after day (being observed as a sender was almost as cool as being a receiver) to "show some love" to their friends. Unfortunately, there was a not so pretty side-effect of this frenzy. Not wanting to be left out, many of my classmates formed a pact to be "secret admirers" for each other. No one want to miss out on the "love fest" on the 14th when everyone strutted around the quad with an obscene amount of floral and sugar reminders of their popularity.

The Librarian, (we will call her Mrs. K) noticed a lot of kids hanging out in study hall on the dreaded day, huddled together like refugees from the land of popularity. She took it upon herself to become a secret admirer of everyone who came through her door. No one left study hall without a "cool kids" sucker in hand. Her kindness is what I think of most when I think about Valentine's Day. She made Valentine's Day less of a nightmare for many, myself included. She made us feel like we were special and deserving. But it didn't stop there. To Mrs. K, every day was Valentine's day. She made a point of making eye contact with everyone who came through her door and worked hard to coax a smile from each. She knew our names and when we needed a little something extra, she would slip a note (nothing fancy, post-its mostly) of encouragement into a backpack or binder to be discovered later in the day.

Rather than getting caught up in the retail frenzy associated with February 14th, I believe we can learn a lot from studying the KPIs that made St. Valentine and Mrs. K so memorable. It wasn't one single act, it was the cumulative expression of helping people feel loved and cared about. It wasn't about gaining notoriety, it was a quiet reminder, unseen by others, that each of us is special and deserving. St. Valentine had just one "show them some love" KPI: # of couples married. Mrs. K's measures of success were equally simple: # of Smiles Coaxed and # of Notes Passed.

Question for you: How can you infuse some of Mrs. K's Valentine's Day attitude into your firm? What can you do to help your team and clients feel cared about? Is it a personal note to be discovered later in the day? Is it a note of encouragement and gratitude slipped in with a client's tax return? Is it paying for a babysitter and dinner out so a couple can reconnect during tax season? What is your "show them some love" KPI?

Edi Osborne, CEO of Mentor Plus, has been a leader in training and consulting to the accounting profession for nearly 20 years. Recently named as one of the TOP 25 Thought Leaders in Public Accounting, Ms. Osborne is dedicated to helping firms make the transition from a "service centric" traditional accounting focus to a "client centric" advisory services culture. For more info go to: http://www.mentorplus.com/.

Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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