I do a lot of traveling for my job and one of the things that I like to do is to sit back and watch how and what people are doing in their jobs, whether it’s at an EnRoute service station, a hotel or even the airport (I get bored easily…I need something to do!) Sometimes you see behaviour that is less than, well, service-oriented. Some of us immediately think that person should not be in the service industry. I have learned over time, that’s not always the case.
In fact, I start to look for clues to the contrary. I can tell pretty quickly if someone is having a bad day, or if, in fact, they actually feel unsupported by the people that they work for, there seems to be a lack of teamwork and cooperation, or even if they have not been properly supported to learn their job. I bet you’ve seen this too.
Visible leadership is a big part of this equation. How would leaders know someone is struggling, team relationships are breaking down, systems aren’t working, or that they don’t have the right people in the right roles if they’re not around?
And I get it. Supervisors and middle managers are busy. They have meetings and schedules and projects and reports. In fact, sometimes we bombard very humanistic leaders with so many things that pull them away from their people even if they want to be available and visible they feel they cannot.
Either way, the customer should not be caught in the middle.
Here’s why we need more visible leaders:
- Customers notice
- You can get on top of the revolving door of issues coming into your office (and take less of your time)
- You can address issues before they become huge (such as a formal complaint)
- You show staff you care by rolling up your sleeves to help when they really need you
- You can better understand what staff and customer experience is by walking in their shoes
- You have more credibility when you introduce changes or improvements
- You can see first hand who your top performers are (and what it will take to retain them)
- You can recognize great work on the spot without delay
You can probably add many additional reasons.
Case in point: My family and I were on route to a funeral then we stopped at a Tim Horton’s in a service station just off the highway. The line was out the door. Now, I wouldn’t have waited, but my husband needed a coffee to keep him going for another three hours.
So we waited. And we waited. And we waited. There were three staff members, run off their feet, and I could see a supervisor in his office in the back. He came out a few times, but never to help out. I could see this really irked the staff (as well it might). And as a customer, it irked me.
By the third time he left his office, I said “excuse me” and he had to stop what he was doing (I am the customer – his staff maybe didn’t feel they could say anything but I could).
“You have a very long line, and I am sure you’re very busy, however, your staff are working as hard as they can and still they’re drowning. I think they need your help.”
He got a “look” on his face when I said that (and yes, I consider myself about to read “looks” having done my Masters of Family Therapy and being the mother of two teenagers). He was not happy. However, he did pitch in. And the line moved faster.
By the time we got to the front (I kid you not, 45 minutes from when we got in line), the cashier said “thank-you so much for saying something. I was just about ready to walk out.”
You don’t want to lose your best people (causing you more work in recruiting). You don’t want to make your customers angry (causing your profits to dip). You don’t want complaints on Yelp and Glassdoor and Facebook? Be visible, be responsive, be supportive.
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