Archive for April, 2012

The Voice of “The Experience” by The Experienced Voice

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

It was a regular day and I was going to stop at the local, newly remodeled King Soopers (A Kroger grocery store) to pick up some items. Now this was early in the morning and, by nature, the night crew is winding down and the day crew is winding up. I like to grocery shop really early to avoid the crowds, but this places me squarely in the employee performance twilight zone. This store has recently spent a ton of money reinstalling a licensed Starbucks outlet with its own entrance and nicely sized patio. So nice in fact that all eyes are drawn to the Starbucks redesign every time you pull into the parking lot.

And, here lies our problem. There is a rather large NO SMOKING sign placed on the front façade of the patio – large enough to be seen from 50 feet away – that indicates the forbidden practice of smoking on the patio. And yet, my regular first impression of the store is always the employees on their smoke break standing 15 feet from the sign. They could reach out and touch the patio railing (forbidden zone) as their cigarette smoke wafts over the entire area and if the wind is right, all the way to the front door of the grocery store.

I’m not a lightweight when it comes to tolerance of others habits, and I have dutifully worked in more than my share of secondhand smoke workplaces, but times have changed. It is CRAZY for any business to contemplate that any paying customer would like to be hit with cigarette smoke as a first impression, much less allow it. And it is also rather ludicrous to think that any paying customer would care to observe the smoking members of  your  team hanging-out,  out front.

Go now and get your union agreements, workplace laws, designated break areas and security procedures realigned. This may be a complicated fix in your eyes, but it is well worth the “brand” enhancement and professional image elevation.

Allowing your employees to smoke next to a NO SMOKING sign at the front of the store – Come ‘on – you’re better than that.

I live a regular life. No one is shopping for me. No one drives me around. I go out, like most folks do and I experience things like most folks do. The difference is – I know what it takes to create great customer service and quite frankly, many in business don’t seem to have a clue about how to create more than a transaction.

So, from now on – I’m going to write about my experience with your customer service – the good, the bad and the really ugly. I’ll be covering what happened to me and what should have happened if it went off the rails. Hopefully, somewhere, somehow this will provide a launching pad for positive change.

 

Inside Scoop – Being Wrong the Right Way

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

And now…I will shed some light on a not so little secret of organizational life. There are some over-eager beavers who deftly scramble up the political and positional ladder seemingly salivating at the prospect of power. Their mastery of corporate gamesman/woman-ship does not guarantee that they are the “sharpest knives in the drawer.” All too often, my experience has shown that if you were to strip away their job title, many lack the influence or substance for making critical decisions.

Ironically, at times it is the awkward foot-draggers who are more capable of making good decisions, but are unwilling to be pressured into making them and don’t want to be held accountable. This leads me to an important point: Lots of smart and entirely good people have discovered they don’t have what it takes to manage things or lead others.

Leadagers who possess good business judgment, a strong sense of direction, and a willingness to accept the conditions of urgency and accountability without a seedy, overcoat-flashing of their fundamental character flaws are the ideal package. Companies spend a lot of money trying to nurture or “home grow” these traits. Unfortunately, this can be an elusive combination of qualities. Conversely, a lack of motivation, butt-headedness, and proven idiocy lead to professional euthanasia every time. (Trust me on this; the latter traits are pretty darn common.)

So let’s face it. You will have to make many decisions without the experience or the information you may desperately think you need, and inevitably, you will decide incorrectly. You will be wrong, and hopefully, someone will allow you to learn from your mistakes. It might be timing, support from the powers that be, or just luck that saves your job.

Early in your career, one of the most important things to learn is how to be wrong in the right way.

Being wrong the right way looks like this:

  • You made what you thought were sound decisions, striving not to be irresponsible, ignorant, or prejudicial.
  • You can explain your thought process with respect to how you came to the decision in a logical manner.
  • Your values were aligned with the organization’s values.
  • You have shown good judgment on previous occasions.
  • You display a willingness to learn from your mistakes.

If you did all the above, you should come out okay (assuming you didn’t burn the place to the ground).

All new leadagers should be allowed some time to practice alternating the gas, clutch, and brake pedals of managementship (i.e., multitasking and managing/weighing multiple—and sometimes conflicting—priorities [chewing gum and running with scissors for all of you non-driving types]). The fact is most managers are playing the standard game of “catch up” in a starkly maniacal fashion.

I strongly urge you to grow away from being the hapless prey-of-the-day—as events pounce on you—and strive to get ahead of events by becoming a predator of pro-activity, turning activities into accomplishments and churning problems into opportunities.

 

Book Excerpt | Introduction To “High Impact Hospitality”

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

I once had a beast of a dog, a 125-pound, all-black German shepherd named Dakota. He was foreboding in the looks department, but in reality he was just a big marshmallow. Dakota would frequently do the oddest thing; whenever we were standing close together, he would lean on me. His weight was enough to shift my center of gravity and at times I would have to scramble to regain my footing.

At one of his annual veterinary check-ups, I asked the vet whether this posture was common for big dogs looking to take a load off or if this dog just liked being close to me. The vet told me that it is the nature of dogs to slide up against each other and test the weight of the newcomer. I guess my dog was on instinct autopilot, subtly trying to test the competition in case there was going to be a tussle.

I don’t know if the vet was dealing in facts but I like to use this analogy when speaking about management and leadership. There is always something sliding up next to you trying to test your mettle. You are being constantly tested and assessed by the staff, customers, budget, boss, or competition—even your peers.

This book is about giving you a healthy dose of heft. After almost thirty years in the industry I’m hoping to share the solid footing that comes from hard-won wisdom.

Over time, with hands-on experience, I have come to understand that I prefer to work with authentic, caring, trustworthy, and competent people. People who do not possess these traits generally seem to fail at a higher rate. As such, I devoted much of my career to developing myself and my managers into people who were successful (by my assessment and by those who signed our paychecks) even though most of the time, we heard different music in our heads.

I call us leadagers (pronounced as – leed/i/jers), and we are a tribe, a group united by our shared values.

Let’s be clear; not everyone who has worked for me has liked me and certainly not everything I touched turned to gold. However, from the beginning, I was driven to produce more leadagers and tribal leaders, not just more managers or hourly workers. It was somewhere at about the eleven-year mark that I began to realize I excelled in the development of leadagers.

As an owner/operator running a college town hot spot, I got started developing people when I was twenty-one years old. I was learning from my management mistakes before most people get a chance to make ’em. (Check out Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers, and look up the 10,000 hour rule-of-thumb. He basically states that ten years of practice is just about how long it takes to become really good at something.)

It’s not like I ignored any of the million little details that go into running a successful hospitality operation; you have to know the right thing to do to teach the right thing to do. It’s just that developing managers into strong leaders is what I poured my heart into.

I come forward now with this humble effort, targeting the following audiences: (1) assistant managers looking for more traction on their way up the mountain, (2) any level of manager in the service sector (general managers included) who is trying to improve their plate-spinning abilities, (3) hourly tribemates with ambition, and (4) anyone wishing for a peek into the mind of a “new-style” manager.

Let me be clear: There is no one right way to be successful in this industry or any other, for that matter. This book is an answer to many questions but it is not the answer to all problems.

With that in mind, may my mistakes help you to avoid some pitfalls, my knowledge be a force for good, and my travails tickle your fancy.

(Damn, I loved that dog!)