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What Kind Of Example Do You Set For Your People?

by David Brock on January 21st, 2011

Yesterday afternoon, I was in JFK waiting to board a plane.  I’d had a long day, nothing to eat, and a 6 hour flight with only the prospects for a bag of peanuts in front of me.  Even though it was only about 20 minutes until boarding, I decided to stop in the restaurant next to the gate.  I asked the hostess if 20 minutes was enough time to order, get served and eat.  She reassured me that I could and seated me. 

I was near the kitchen, 10 feet away from me, the manager stood with a huddle of all 8 of the wait staff.  Quickly I decided what to order, put my menu down and looked, expectantly, at the group of waiters (and manager).  They looked right back,  a few with eye to eye contact, most looking just over my head.  I waited a minute or so, then started looking at my watch, tapping the menu and looking back at them.  They, along with the manager, just kept looking.  They were laughing and joking among themselves.

A few tables away, I noticed another road warrior doing the same thing.  His body language could have been read by a blind person, “I need to order and get going!”  He and I were looking at each other, looking at the manager and wait staff, getting increasingly nervous. 

Five minutes passes, the hostess comes to me, looking a little surprised, “Has anyone taken your order?”  “No,” I respond, “I’m a little worried about making my plane.”  I said this loudly enough for the group 10 feet away to hear.  No response.

My new friend at the other table overheard that, piping up, “I need to order too!”  I could hear him clearly, and assumed the crowd 10 feet from me could hear as well.

The hostess goes to the assembled group, clearly asking,”Who’s handling these tables?”  Lot’s of shrugging shoulders, manager says nothing, just peruses the nearly empty dining room.

I look at my watch, it’s now 12 minutes to boarding time–I see the sandwich stand down the corridor, perhaps I can get something there.  As I stand up, a waiter starts to take a step forward.  I say in a loud voice (I can be such a jerk at times), just loud enough for the group and the tables around me to hear, “Apparently, all of you are too busy talking to pay attention to your customers.  I’ll find someone who wants to be helpful!” I walk out.  My new friend, stands up and joins me, we turn around and notice people at two other tables also standing and walking out.

What did the manager do?  He just turned, walked back into the kitchen.  The rest of the wait staff were just looking at each other, shrugging their shoulders.

Clearly, there were a lot of problems in the restaurant.  They started with the manager and his attitude.  He didn’t care about his customers, probably didn’t care about the business.  He didn’t take the opportunity to show leadership, either directing someone to the tables where people were waiting to order, or coming up and apologizing as 4 customers were walking out.

As managers and leaders, if you don’t care about your customers, if you don’t care about your people, if you don’t demonstrate some leadership, why should you expect anything better from your people?  Each of us, as leaders, set an example for our people.  Let’s make sure we set the right example!

Oh, by the way, if you happen to be in JFK, Terminal 2, good luck finding good service in anything other than the snack stands!

Exciting News:  Next Friday, January 28, at Future Selling Institute, during our Office Hours at 1:00 EST, we will be focusing the discussion on Coaching.  We will be debating issues on the importance of coaching, critical success factors in coaching, what happens if we don’t coach, and more.  It is certain to be a lively discussion.   No presentations, just discussion and a healthy exchange of ideas—and I’m certain a few fireworks!  It’s open to everyone, just register at:  Coaching:  The Highest Leverage Use Of A Sales Manager’s Time!

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