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Let's All Implement the 10 and 5 Rule

May 9, 2021 | by Rabbi Philip Moskowitz

Whenever you are within 10 feet of someone, make eye contact and smile. When you’re within 5 feet, say hello. A simple way to make a dramatic difference.

We can all learn from the hospitality industry's 10 and 5 rule: when a staff member is within 10 feet of a guest, the staff member smiles and makes direct eye contact. When the staff member is within 5 feet of a guest, the staff member verbally greets the guest.

Simple, but these small changes can have a huge impact.

Hotel chains and successful companies have adopted this rule as an inexpensive and effective way to enrich a guest’s experience. At Walmart, founder Sam Walton coined the “Ten-Foot Attitude” and said, “I want you to promise that whenever you come within 10 feet of a customer, you will look him in the eye, greet him and ask him if you can help him.” At Disney, the rule was expanded upon to outline exactly what steps should be taken any time a Disney cast member is near a guest. And Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said, “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, 'Make me feel important.' Never forget this message when working with people.” Simple acts like smiling and saying hello fulfill the human need to be seen and to be made to feel important.

Shawn Archer, author of “Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change,” describes how after the devastation from Hurricane Katrina, Ochsner Health System in Louisiana was looking to increase positivity across its more than eleven thousand employees. To help them reach this goal, Shawn advised them to implement the 10 and 5 rule. Ochsner formally trained their staff to smile and say hello according to the rule and made this a core component of their performance reviews. There were many skeptics. Some doctors were too busy, while others thought the whole thing was a bit hokey, saying things like, “I don’t have time to waste on this silly HR initiative. I’m busy saving lives.”

The instruction to smile not only changed the culture for the better at Ochsner Health, but dramatically improved patient outcomes. As Archer writes, “Not only did this initiative improve patients’ satisfaction with care; it improved outcomes for the hospital.” Moreover, patient satisfaction with care is one of the greatest predictors of profit for a hospital. Within one year, the hospitals that franchised the 10 and 5 rule had a 5 percent increase on Press Ganey's Likelihood to Recommend score (which evaluates whether patients would send their friends to that hospital), a 2.1 percent increase in patient visits, and significant improvement in the medical practice provider scores. Ochsner reported $1.8 billion in revenue in 2011. So if they experienced even a 0.1 percent increase in revenue, positive inception saved millions of dollars to help care for more sick people! That gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "million-dollar smile."

Imagine how much warmer and friendlier our community would be if we took a page out of these successful companies and instituted the 10 and 5 rule. Whenever you are within 10 feet of someone, make eye contact and smile. When you’re within 5 feet, say hello.

The Mishnah in Ethics of our Fathers (1:15) instructs us to “receive everyone with a cheerful face.” The Avos D’Rav Nosson comments, “This teaches that if a person gives his friend all the finest gifts in the world, but does so with a pained face, it is considered it as if he had given him nothing. But one who receives his friend with a smile, even if he gives him nothing, it is considered it as if he had given him all the finest gifts in the world.”

Eye contact, a smile, and saying hello are three things that cost us nothing. Combined, they take less than a second. And yet, they can transform you and the culture around you. They put people at ease and they and you can practice it wherever you go. All that’s required is a little bit of consciousness throughout your day.

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