Are you an Ostrich or a Finger Pointer?

In Marshall Goldsmith’s book ‘What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There’ he berates the leader who doesn’t apologise. I was running a session on Executive Presence on Friday and explored his research with a collection of up and coming managers and future leaders. We discussed leaders who refuse to apologise even after some monumental screw ups at work. Instead they adopt Ostrich behaviour and bury their head in the corporate sand pit and hope that no one mentions anything. Or, more commonly, they find someone to blame and distance themselves from the problem.

At the back of my mind was the hotel I had just stayed in – yes I am talking about you The Royal George Hotel in Birdlip. I arrived at 9:40 and had to wait 20 minutes for someone to appear on reception to check me in. It seems only the hotel manager was qualified to hand me my keys and to get me to sign a form. The staff wandering about in the bar were not up to such demanding duties apparently

I don’t know about you but I go through a progression of emotions…

  • When I arrive I am disappointed not to find someone there
  • I am confused when I can’t see a bell to ring or any way of attracting attention
  • After five minutes I am getting agitated. The passing bar staff knew I was waiting
  • After 10 minutes and two conversations with people who seemed to be working there I was fed up. I then started to twitter my frustrations
  • After 20 minutes I was exasperated.
  • Finally the manager arrived. I said I had been there 20 minutes and asked why I was kept waiting. Her answer was interesting. Firstly she did some finger pointing and blamed the bar staff for not telling her. Then she focussed on forms and keys and the process of checking me in. No word of apology; she did nothing to make me feel any better.

I am sure you have experienced similar moments. The first lesson for customer service is clear. I was working with one of the largest employers in the area who make block bookings at the hotel When my client asked me how my stay was I was very tough and suggested they find an alternative hotel. Even a conservative estimate of the business this hotel receives would equate to about £20,000 a year. I wonder if they would have treated me differently had I had a £20k price tag around my neck.

The second lesson is that blaming someone else simply doesn’t work. No matter what the problem, accept responsibility and commit to doing something about it.

When I checked out, the receptionist asked how my stay was. I said it was fine. The third lesson for customer services is that you learn with some businesses that complaining is futile. They won’t listen. So I joined in with the Ostrich behaviour until I left the building. So here I am blogging to all of you and there is nothing the hotel can do to stop me or make me feel better. It is too late.

So leaders, receptionists, customer facing staff: apologise when things go wrong. Make sure you mean it. Don’t blame others, instead do something nice to compensate for the pain or the misery you have caused.

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Music In The Office

This week we are playing the new album by the Smoke Fairies. In fact we discovered that they are on tour next week and are playing a few songs in the Cafe below the office on Wednesday afternoon. Hope to pop down and meet them