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National Association of Counties * Washington, D.C.           Vol. 31, No. 21 * November 8, 1999

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Simple Gifts: Exceeding Customer Expectations

We are all familiar with five basic senses which allow us to function effectively in our environment. Vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch are receivers of information that can then be processed by our minds and translated into what is, hopefully, the right action at the time.
There is, however, an additional sense all managers and supervisors should have in order to do well in their particular environments. This is a sense that is not necessarily genetic, but rather can be learned, practiced and refined with experience and education. This supervisor’s sense is often described as a “gut feeling.”

Most of us have a foreboding feeling as we walk alone on a deserted street and we think someone else is in the area. We may have a feeling that we are being watched or that some situation is uncomfortable and just not right. These feelings often first stimulate adrenaline. They make us focused and sharp in order to react in the best way to reduce any stress or danger and increase survival and success.

The best managers have developed a similar sixth sense when it comes to HR troubles and HR opportunities. When a manager understands the laws, the agency policies and is a consistent practitioner of good HR skills, that supervisor is able to sense and anticipate trouble and obstacles.

Developing the HR sixth sense is the subject of an HR Doctor workshop designed to help managers grow on the job and know what to do when things just don’t seem right in the workplace. Developing this HR sense is really an exercise in learning to see into the future. It is a lesson in being able to ask yourself: “What’s going on here?” and “What should I do about it?”

Practicing the skill should be part of the professional development of every supervisor and manager. It certainly applies beyond issues in human resources to all other areas of public administration, not to mention our private lives.

This additional sense is not only one which tells us that there is “danger ahead.” It is also one that can point out positive opportunities. By becoming sensitive to our environment, we can perceive things that can be improved, even if they are already very strong and very positive. A combination of avoidance, response to danger and recognition of positive opportunities makes for a very strong supervisor and a very effective public administrator.

The HR Doctor strongly recommends that managers be equipped, through training and experience, to be able to see into the future of workplace issues by harnessing this additional sensory capacity that lives in every one of us.

It fits very nicely with a seventh sense that all of us who work in public service should have, but sometimes we misplace. That seventh sense is “common sense.”

Common sense is characterized by a focus on the practical, as well as the theoretical, a positive, can-do attitude about our work, and the desire to help the clients we serve and the colleagues with whom we work. It would be a great idea for colleges and universities to offer programs leading to degrees, such as Master of Common Sense. Meanwhile, best wishes and visit the HR Doctor Web site at


Best Wishes,
The HR Doctor
e-mail at

(If you have questions for the "HR Doctor," e-mail him at Rosenberg is the Human Resources director for Broward County, Fla.)


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