In my previous blog post I expressed amazement at the lack of even thinking about service at a Victoria restaurant. Unrelated and unexpectedly on Wednesday I was copied on an email Scott Macpherson wrote to everyone in his organization acknowledging Anita Barker for her client focus.
Scott runs TrainingPort. Together with his team, they provide customized business aviation safety and operational training across North America from their base at Vancouver Airport.
Scott says, about a client who is leaving, “This Company has been a client for a year now and was a hard-won client at that. It took over a year to earn their trust and they are all satisfied with our content, system and service. However, they are our first client to not renew.” It turns out that the Aviation Manager wanted to test the competition.
In closing out the file and training records, Anita discovered that a new pilot was starting at This Company and on her own initiative, set up the new pilot up as a trainee on the system until the end of the contract.
In a business whose biggest challenge is serving the tremendous growth they are experiencing (a well-earned challenge) an employee goes the extra mile to continue serving a client who is leaving. Others may be tempted to focus on the new clients, or those who are staying.
Now Scott, do you offer training for restaurants? Or Telus?
A bit of a theme is emerging here: Who are you serving? Are you going the extra mile or telling them to go away and come back in 10 minutes?
Or (Telus) telling the customer you will let them know in about two weeks how much longer they will have to wait for a land-line and internet service. After committing to provide the service!
We have two lines to serve you. The first line is to tell you how long the second line is. The second line is for the service we committed to!
My wife and were recently in Victoria for a week. While we have spent a bit of time there, we don’t have much local knowledge so we asked the friendly folks at the front desk of the Coast Hotel to recommend some dinner spots to try. Pagliacci’s was an excellent choice as was Sen Zushi. Both had excellent food and great service; we loved them.
At the end of an afternoon of walking around the city we dropped in to another recommended dinner spot. We went down the stairs from the street, through the open door and waited a short time at the host station before someone arrived. They told us that they were not open yet and wouldn’t be open for another 10 minutes.
There are probably hundreds of things (well, a dozen or so) he could have said at this point but the one he chose was, “You will have to go back up the steps, walk around for another 10 minutes and then come back.”
Apparently it didn’t occur to him to say something like…
“If you don’t mind having a seat at this table, we’ll be ready to serve you in about 10 minutes.”
“I can bring you a glass of water and a menu to look at, and a server will be with you in about 10 minutes when we open.”
“You can pick any table you want, relax for a few minutes with a menu and we’ll be right with you as soon as our servers arrive.”
The must be making a mint because they certainly didn’t want our business. We did part of what they said… we walked back up the steps.
You are here to serve something beyond yourself. What are you honoring? Who are you serving?
Stop making the wrong mistakes; start making more of the right ones.
There are two types of mistakes. You think something won’t work but it will; you think something will work but it won’t.
When you think it won’t work, you are unwilling to give it a try. Worse still, won’t let others try it either. I can hear it now, “We’ve tried it before; you can’t do that around here; you’d never get anyone to agree with that; it’s a waste of time and money; people aren’t ready for that yet.” (Which ones did I miss?).
But what if you are, (Gasp!), wrong? What if it would work? What if others could make it work in a way that you don’t see? Imaging that, like WD 40, it took 40 tries to get it right but when you did it was home run?
This mistake is enormously costly. Initiative is suppressed so people just wait for what you say. You’ve missed the opportunity to develop others to keep leading things to the next level. And you sit contemplating an “employee engagement” program.
With the second type of mistake, you think that something will work, yet it won’t. This is what people are really trying to avoid. They are so worried about avoiding mistakes that they unwilling to risk small bets to see what’s possible beyond what they think.
It makes sense to avoid big bets that could cripple the organization but not trying is a failure by itself. You’re so worried about big bets that might fail that you won’t take the small bets. You inadvertently discourage people from trying things (or even suggesting trying things) and you miss the accumulated incremental improvement.
You think the risk is big bets that fail and sink the company. The real risk is the accumulated effect of suppressing people’s desire to contribute to making things better; and the missed accumulated incremental improvement. But then, you could always start an employee engagement program.
In a sad commentary on our time, the May issue of Harvard Business Review trumpets: How to get more done. If they thought that would attract readers, there are a lot of people looking for ways to get more done.
Who thought it through and decided that getting more done was a good idea? I know you’re busy but if you thought getting more done was a good idea, what other questions did you consider and reject before arriving at more as your focus?
“More” is the wrong question. How to get the right amount of the right things done is a more compelling question. Or perhaps one of the following:
How to get the right things done with more ease?
How to tell the difference between what’s worth doing and what’s not?
How to tell what you’re doing that you don’t need to be doing?
What things are you doing that actually undermine the most important things to accomplish?
What good would it do, to do more of the wrong things?
What compels you to keep saying Yes to the wrong things?
How much is enough?
What are you avoiding by filling your day with more things instead of the few fundamental things that would make a real, lasting difference?
To be fair, the whole HBR issue isn’t filled with articles on More. There is some space given to discerning what is fitting and appropriate – but not nearly enough. More is a disease of our times. Doing more is such a small, cheap, settling for what could make a real difference. More doesn’t deserve the respect it gets. Busyness is a self-indulgent distraction. There are lots of things in the world we certainly don’t need more of; perhaps someone could stop doing more of those.
Start doing more thinking! Now that’s worth doing more of!
The previous post, Are you destroying enough? was about clearing out the old to make room for the new. Maybe it could have been titled, Are you protecting too much? Or, Are you protecting what no longer serves you well?
I was surprised when I started reading Peter Drucker’s, Managing the Nonprofit Organization today. Amazing coincidence of timing. Here are a few things he has to say…
“…managers have to build in review, revision and organized abandonment.”
“As you add on, you have to abandon. But you also have to think though which are the few things we can accomplish that will do the most for us, and which are the things that contribute either marginally or are no longer of great significance.”
“Where can we, with the limited resources we have – and I don’t just mean people and money, but also competence – really make a difference, really set a new standard? One sets the standard by doing something and doing it well. You create a new dimension of performance.”
“I have never seen anything being done well unless people were committed.”
“And so one asks first, what are the opportunities, the needs? Then, do they fit us? Are we likely to do a decent job? Are we competent? Do they match our strengths? Do we really believe in this?”
All this in the first 8 pages!
Next time we’ll address how to determine whether you’re making your best contribution.
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