“Re-Casting” Employees into the Right Role

February 26, 2015 by

The following passage is from my New York Times Best Seller Building a Magnetic Culture:


She is more than just a greeter to patients and guests at Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, Louisiana; she is Miss Betty, an always smiling, forever cheerful, burst of positivity and enthusiasm. The Louisiana hospital group first recognized Miss Betty’s positive attitude and ability to connect with patients and their families when she started working as a housekeeper 30 years ago. She was in that position for many years, but Senior Leaders thought her people skills could be better utilized. They speculated Miss Betty could make a far greater impact on patients and guests as a greeter than as a housekeeper. In 2010, they proposed a switch in her role. Miss Betty was absolutely delighted by the idea, especially since her favorite part about working for Ochsner is interacting with people.

As a greeter for the Jefferson Highway campus, Miss Betty is the first point of contact for guests entering the hospital through the parking garage. She shapes the patient experience early by helping provide detailed directions for navigating the large hospital. She learns and remembers people’s names and never stops smiling. Many Ochsner guests actually stop to hug Miss Betty when they are coming and going because she has developed such a caring relationship with them. Miss Betty’s colleagues frequently overhear guests talking about how wonderful she is and how perfect she is for her job. I witnessed these interactions first-hand and never forgot about them.

When asked why she is always in such a good mood, Miss Betty responds that she simply loves what she does. She thinks people are interesting and she enjoys getting to know them through her position.

Senior Leaders at Ochsner should be credited for recognizing talent and understanding the best way to utilize it. By empowering Miss Betty to do what she does best, she is now an ambassador of service excellence and one of the many reasons Ochsner is a hospital of choice.

When Building a Magnetic Culture was first published and the boxes of books arrived at my office, I realized that a year and a half of my hard work had come to fruition. As a first-time author, when you first get to touch and open the actual book, it is an emotional moment. That’s when the book’s existence became very real to me and tears came to my eyes.

My second thought was “who is going to get the first personally-signed copy?” Even though I had never actually met Miss Betty, I immediately knew that she would be the recipient. I reflected on the wonderfully infectious positivity and engagement she exhibited when I saw her performing her job. I considered no one else to receive this first signed copy.

When I called my contacts at Ochsner to get Miss Betty’s home address, they told me not to send it to Miss Betty but instead, send it to them so they could present it and a special framed poster to her at an employee recognition event, in front of a thousand of her peers. Needless to say, Miss Betty was very touched by the public recognition. Keep in mind that she had no idea she was even in a book, let alone a New York Times Best Seller. She especially appreciated what I wrote to her in the book: “To Miss Betty – Keep doing what you do. You are special. Check out page 53. Have fun! – Kevin”

Miss Betty

As you can see, much like Jennifer Anniston’s character in the cult classic film “Office Space,” Miss Betty expresses herself through wearing “flair” (the pins and buttons on her jacket).

Despite having seen Miss Betty in action at work, up until about six months ago, I had never spoken to her or officially met her. One night out of the blue, I received a voicemail message in a wonderfully thick N’awlins accent from Miss Betty that went something like this:

“Mr. Sheridan, you don’t know me, well no, I guess you do know me because you put me in your book. This is Miss Betty Wells from Ochsner Health System. I have been meaning to call you for some time now and thank you. You have had a profound influence on my life. Truly. Don’t feel the need to call me back if you don’t want to. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. God Bless you Mr. Sheridan.”

Of course I called her back. When we spoke she had me in tears of joy and admiration. Of course, I thanked her and also asked her to please call me “Kevin.”

She replied: “So much has changed since you told my story in your book. Ochsner Health System actually created a customer service program called ‘The Power of One.’ And do you know who the ‘One’ is? The ‘One’ is me!”

Think about that. An entire training program designed around one person and what she has achieved. Literally every single one of Ochsner’s 14,700 employees knows about Miss Betty and the impact she has had on both Ochsner’s customers and brand image in the community.

She continued: “Then the word of your book leaked out into the community and several newspapers told the story and included my picture.” Now, when patients and their families come to the hospital, the regularly bring me “flair” to put on my jacket. Mr. Sheridan, I’ve got so much flair I can’t wear that jacket anymore! It’s too heavy!”

Key takeaways:
• Train your managers to recognize when employees are in the wrong job, or as Jim Collins said in his best seller, Good to Great, “in the wrong seat on the bus.” Re-cast them into a role that will bring out their passion and pride, just like Miss Betty.
• Find your organization’s “Miss Betty,” and in the spirit of the most impactful driver of employee engagement (recognition), celebrate that person publicly. Analyze how he or she achieves such special outcomes and replicate those discoveries throughout the rest of the organization with great employee training.

My most recent call with Miss Betty was to invite her to dinner when I’ll be in New Orleans in May. She left me a message full of excitement that we will finally meet in person for the first time, and break bread. The last words in her message were: “God Bless You Mr. Sheridan. I love you.”

I love you too, Miss Betty.


Kevin Sheridan is an internationally-recognized Keynote Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of Employee Engagement. For five years running, he has been honored on Inc. Magazine’s top 100 Leadership Speakers in the world, as well as Inc.’s top 100 experts on Employee Engagement. He was also honored to be named to The Employee Engagement Award’s Top 101 Global Influencers on Employee Engagement of 2017.

Having spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant, Kevin has helped some of the world’s largest corporations rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long-overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement. His first book, Building a Magnetic Culture, made six of the best seller lists including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He is also the author of The Virtual Manager, which explores how to most effectively manage remote workers.

Kevin received a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in 1988, concentrating his degree in Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior. He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded and sold three different companies.

Email: kevin@kevinsheridanllc.com