I developed this set of indicators as a way of testing how willing people were to engage with others around their workplace. It all started when I was asked how a group of enthused customer friendly people might get their colleagues to engage more. They grumbled that most of the people in their large open plan office came to work, sat at their desk, switched on their computer and rarely looked up for the rest of the day. I suggested they set about a campaign to infect their colleagues with a dose of bon homie. They each agreed to acknowledge their reticent colleagues with a cheery ‘Good Morning’ every time they passed by their workstations. Six weeks later the results were in. At first they were regarded as an unorthodox oddity but, after persisting for several weeks others started to join their ‘Good Morning’ group until eventually the whole office was transformed.
We tried this out in a very large foundation Hospital Trust where we were delivering a patient experience programme. When we first arrived no-one ever gave eye contact or acknowledged us as we went around the hospital! At the end of the project about 50% of staff would engage with us, with their colleagues and with patients as they passed.
I like to go out running when I stay over in a new town or city and I have devised my ‘Good Morning’ Friendliness Index (GMFI) to compare the friendliness of each place. I assume I will pass a random selection of people so it is possible to make a fair comparison. Every time I meet someone I greet them. Each person who responds, in any way positively, scores one friendliness point; if they ignore me I award an unfriendly point. At the end of the run I’m able to work out the friendliness index.
My first attempt around Hyde Park in London had 25 people ignoring me with only one, a Japanese tourist, saying hello. My latest attempt along the Thames footpath this weekend received 11 acknowledgements and 5 non responses. So it looks like things are getting better in London. Compare this with my home in the Yorkshire Pennines where it is rare for people not to say hello. This in itself has caused problems. It means the GMFI is not rigorous enough for Yorkshire so I have had to move on to the second level; UGMFI, this is the Unsolicited Good Morning Friendliness Index. Here I am not allowed to initiate the contact. Locally, I normally score about 30%.
There are, however, two even higher levels to aspire to. The CFI is the Chat Friendliness Index, which obviously can’t be done whilst running, (although I did engage with a famous fashion designer on a bike ride once). This test involves making an attempt to engage total strangers in conversation, say in a queue or on a tube. Camp sites and scenic railway stations always score highly, whereas the London Underground rarely scores positively. Top of the tree is the UCFI, or Unsolicited Chat Friendliness Index which only usually happens if you have a small child, animal or broken bike with you.
The rewards for participating in these tests are enormous. I’ve been rejected by thousands of people but I’ve also stopped to chat with some incredible strangers like the man flying his Harris Hawk from his wrist as he took his morning constitutional.
If London is to make a brilliant impression during the Olympics a few more people need to adopt the Yorkshire habit of politely acknowledging passers bye, after all deep down, given a little encouragement, we are still a really friendly nation.