The Power of Chocolate

A sweet topic to start 2015. This post might be titled: “How to win friends and influence people”. It does not matter which industry you are in and how you work, you will always be working with others. This week’s post is about how you nurture those relationships and inspired by recent evidence of how enduring the observation is.

Many years back, in Goldman Sachs days, the bulk of our IT support for our team in Switzerland was based in New York. Whilst travel to London was frequent, trips to New York to see the folks that supported us were not that common. That same team in New York supported all the users of the clearance system globally, so there was always a backlog ad a long one at that. We figured we had a very potent weapon at our disposal; Swiss chocolate.

Every December, we would buy gold bars of chocolate. Very Swiss banking; gold and chocolate. We’d then ship a whole document box of this stuff to the IT support team in New York, either by prevailing on somebody who was travelling or actually resorting the inter-company mail, or the pouch as the idiom of the day had it. That was our big thank you to these folk we rarely met, but spoke to frequently.

We rarely had problems getting attention from the team and ensuring our needs were high up on the priority list. The chocolate was an easy and cheap thing to do to acknowledge our colleagues who helped us out.

If you live in New York, or don’t have some Swiss chocolate to hand, there is an equivalent “local NY fix”; the fantastic Strawberry Shortcake from Veniero’s Patisserie in Manhattan. This never fails to make people happy, even the cynics on a trading floor, who will generally wolf down anything that comes under the general definition of “food”. And, you can order over the internet.

Some 25 years later, I have found out in the last two weeks just how enduring these small acts of kindness and recognition are. With one colleague, who I have known for years, we were discussing the positive effects of making small gifts of chocolate to various teams we are currently working with, when he said, entirely unprompted by me: “.. of course, if you live in New York, you would send Strawberry Shortcake from Veniero’s.” Then I was exchanging e-mails with a long time Goldman IT manager, who way back when was part of the team that supported us in Switzerland. I mentioned our old chocolate trick. His reply: “Swiss chocolate still works, only the current group is Operations is unaware of its’ power.”

Lessons to be Learned:  QED. No matter which country you work in, your colleagues will notice acts of kindness and recognition. Swiss chocolate is a great way to say thank you. Of course, as this is a Swiss rule, there is no rule without an exception: “Keine Regel ohne Ausnahme”

First, if the recipient is in Switzerland, then either you have to go upscale and you use Sprüngli Truffles or you avoid the chocolate thing all together and go for a fruit basket.

Second, if the recipient is in New York, if you cannot organise the chocolate, then Veniero’s Strawberry Shortcake is a “never fails” substitute.

Third, there is no accounting for the odd tastes of some. A Norwegian recently claimed that Norwegian chocolate would be even better than Swiss chocolate. Now I must confess to never having heard that Norway has chocolate of any kind, let alone on a par with the Swiss standard. But, I researched this and was told by another Norwegian colleague that Freia is pretty good and those brought up on it do like it. So if you have to influence Norwegians outside of Norway, get them some their own. There are those who like Galaxy from England.

The point is not about the brand of chocolate, rather it is that a little thoughtfulness that shows you have tried to do something special will go a long way.

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