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21st Century Leaders – Give power to your people

The backstory:

Over the Christmas break, my family went bowling to celebrate my sister and bro-in-law’s anniversary. A great lunch special : free shoes and a game of bowling. My sister asked if we could bowl an additional game and the guy pointed out that it was going to be extra, but mom agreed. The bowling was great fun (I had the highscore), and the food came just as we were finishing up our first game.

When we went to pay for our second round, we were told “sorry, there’s a waiting list now – we need to get other people on your lane”. That’s when we started getting upset. For the next 15 minutes, this kid behind the counter said he understood how we felt, but the rules are the rules and he wasn’t able to break them. He knew he screwed up – you could see it in his face – but just like most employees in retail-like establishments – he didn’t have the authority to go outside of the “system”.

Finally he found the manager. The manager approved the situation (obviously – we had already spent over $200 in bowling and drinks and we wanted to spend more!). Then we realized that some of our food order was incorrect. The manager apologized and personally took care of it. He made everything right (except a discount which would have been nice). I even saw him telling our waitress to go over and spend time talking with us.  But, we were pissed off for a good 25-30 minutes in total.  We almost left without eating.  It was all up to him to make things right – even though there were 10-15 people working.  So here’s the takeaway:

Give power to your people.
If you have a business that includes both employees and customers:

- Hire the right ones

- Fire those that suck

- Empower them with knowledge

- Lead with the passion for the customer’s needs

- Don’t resolve all the issues yourself

Now, how are you going to lead your employees differently?

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  • http://twitter.com/67tallchris Christopher Porter

    Awesome story. I have herd this kind of thing over and over again with customer service.

    Finding employees that can handle ambiguous situations, yet will not abuse their “power” for their friends, is an interesting balance. It takes empowerment on many levels, and the right people that like what they are doing to achieve this.

    I think Stephen Covey has an example of Janitors in a company being empowerd in his book “The 8th Habit”, and talks about what it took for them to take responsibility for their jobs. It is so easy to see the problem from a customer perspective, but the solution must be hand crafted to fit the situation, and looks very different for each organization, and the people in it.

    I think you are on the right path, seeing what needs to change, and highlighting your experience. Have fun bowling!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for “getting it”, Chris. You’re right there’s a line between friends and customers, but yet you see this behavior all the time in CEO’s. My thought provoking question would be “If it’s good for the CEO, why isn’t it good for the lower levels?”

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