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December 2012

When marines cry!

It seems unheard of to make a US marine cry – especially in public. So to achieve this through something that can only be described as poor customer service is really remarkable. Yet apparently Delta Airlines managed it.  

To their credit Delta in a prompt response have promised to “make it right.” However, how do you “make right” such personal humiliation?  

Of course Delta claims that, “This incident doesn’t reflect the care with which Delta people serve our customers every day,” and that, “We strive to exceed expectations with every customer.” That is likely true but, unfortunately, this incident happened. So, even if it is a lamentable one-off, it is evidence that there is a lack of organisational integrity and that such good intentions do not always translate into the appropriate action in the work place.  

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Backward thinking. Don't you make the same mistake!

Yesterday Sainsbury announced the replacing of their “Customer Service and Colleague Director” with “HR Director.” Perhaps it is only to saving printing costs and make business cards easier to read, and it may be a case of a rose by any other name smelling as sweet, but somehow I could not help feeling that it was a retrograde step.

And that is not just because the term HR is more frequently being disparaged because it should be about people and not resources. The term “Customer Services and Colleague Director” may be a little unwieldy but at least it highlights the key fact that good customer service is dependent on people. As such it considerably more appropriate, progressive and forward thinking. Indeed, I cannot help asking myself if it partly explains Sainsbury’s resurgence in the industry and the company’s climb back towards the top spot after falling to fourth.    

Ideas Action Success 000020359758XSmall-1As the picture shows, you cannot move from an idea to successful implementation without action. And action requires human intervention. Business is conducted through organisations to fulfil a defined purpose (a specific idea) which makes it impossible without people. Thus the idea of pulling colleagues together to provide customer service, while stating the obvious, seems far more appropriate and wide-reaching than “HR Director.”  

If Sainsbury’s now consider the term to be too clumsy perhaps they could have rather thought of something different: something more succinct that retained the progressive thinking that had gone into that other title. If it had been up to me I might have suggested something along the lines of “Communication Director.”

After all, effective human collaboration demands good communication, and by pooling PR, marketing, customer service and people all together under one umbrella called communications, you would be able to ensure the organisational integrity and teamwork that would flow from a single, cohesive corporate message that would ensure everyone sings from the same song sheet. Apart from anything else, it would help ensure that people are properly represented in the C-suite and embed employee voice and greater employee engagement.      

Sounds like a good idea to me. What do you think?

How popular are you?

How would you react to the headline, “Leadership is not a popularity contest”? Your immediate reaction would possibly be the same as mine: “Of course it isn’t!” The very concept seems ludicrous.

Yet why is that?

Stop and think about it for a moment. Have you, as a business owner or manager, perhaps been caught up in the conventional wisdom that buys into the philosophy that, “It’s tough at the top”? The problem with this is that you, albeit unconsciously, start to see yourself as a class apart – distinct and different from all your fellow employees. And that is not a healthy state of affairs, because it sabotages any sense of an organisational team, obliterates organisational integrity, and extinguishes employee engagement.

When you think about it a little more you will realise that it is the word “contest” that causes the problem, because it encourages the sense of challenge and competition. After all, the word “popular” comes from the Latin “popularis” which in turn comes from “populus” which is the root of the English word ‘people’ and is included in words like population. In reality you cannot be a leader without followers – without people – and therefore, by definition, a leader has to be popular.

In fact the concept of an unpopular leader is a complete oxymoron! Anyone in a position of ‘power’ or authority, but who isn’t liked or respected by the people over whom they have such influence, is not a true leader. At best they are empowered by rank.

Leadership_000022291197XSmallOf course that doesn’t apply to you. It doesn’t, does it?

Perhaps not, but what are you doing to ensure that you have followers? It may not be a contest, but the more people you have following you – the more popular you are – the more effective you are as a leader. So, whether you like it or not, your leadership shows!