My wife’s book club skipped this month’s meeting and attended the movie version of a novel they read: “The Help.” Afterwards, they wanted to go to a restaurant, have dessert and discuss the film. Kathy checked out a couple of nearby eateries’ websites and selected one that remained open late on a Wednesday night. Arriving just ahead of her group at 9:58, she went inside and the hostess said, “I’m sorry, we close at 10.” Kathy said, “But your website says you’re open until 11.” The hostess replied: “Oh, that’s our midtown location.”
Kathy asked to speak to the manager. Although he arrived quickly, she had the website on her phone to show him. “I have seven women coming here to talk about a movie we just saw,” she said. “Your website says you close at 11. It doesn’t say that’s just your other location.” Without hesitating, he said: “Not a problem. We’ll be happy to stay open just for you.”
Of course, the easier, less expensive response – and more typical one – would have been: “Ma’am, I’m sorry for the confusion. The home office is responsible for the website, and I guess it is confusing. I’ll be sure to tell them to correct that.” Then gently escort my wife out the door to face her friends alone. Instead, this astute leader created a huge win for his company. Eight women had a happy ending to their evening, and I’m guessing told lots of people about the incredible service at this establishment.
How would your employees have handled a similar situation?
Four of my friends from church and I have lunch together once a month, rotating who picks the restaurant. These 90-minute gatherings are simply the ‘in person’ part of what plays out in email between gatherings. During those written discussions we share editorials from various online newspapers, comment on the happenings in the world and trade a lot of friendly barbs – always in good humor and with the purpose of getting each other to think. Sometimes these dialogues may happen frequently on a good news day.
While all of us fall to the right on the political pendulum, I am the one who sits closest to the middle. In fact, I jokingly refer to myself as, “The liberal Catholic among us.” One of our recent exchanges was about the budget deficit standoff and who was at fault. The member who leans waaaay toward conservative blamed the president and Democrats for their insistence that a tax hike be included in any new legislation. I assumed my typical role – playing devil’s advocate: “What about those Tea Party members who refuse to budge on any of their tenets, even if it leads to an agreement?” His response: “They’re doing the right things. The other side is wrong.”
To me this is a microcosm of the biggest challenge impacting leadership. Whenever someone takes the position of ‘I think it, so it must be correct,” there is the danger of missing the opportunity to create a better result. It’s only through a willingness to hear other ideas and consider different approaches that true growth occurs. Lines in the sand and one-sided viewpoints don’t lead to change. They simply keep things heading down the same path.
This month it’s my turn to choose where to eat. When I gave two options and said we could decide the morning of lunch, one of my group wrote, “Sounds like you’re kicking the can down the road, just like Congress.” I wrote back: “Actually, I’m trying to model that the art of compromise happens every day in the real world… and usually makes for a more enjoyable meal.”
Each month I write an e-newsletter that focuses on observations in business and life that could be beneficial for readers. The December issue is always a reflection on the lessons I learned during the year. Here is the 5th most important insight I discovered in 2010:
Stand On It – One of my intentions this year was to confidently treach out to anyone who could possibly enhance our success – to play big. This focus attracted conversations with many executives… and each was gracious to provide guidance and referrals. On the personal side, I submitted an application to ‘Be the Boss’ on Sirius/XM’s E Street Radio. They said yes, and I had the opportunity to play my favorite Bruce Springsteen tracks and share stories on the air. Never be shy to raise your hand; it’s the best way to start working on a dream.