Friday, May 7, 2010

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But . . .

Over the years I’ve been exposed to a great number of training courses and all the latest jargon as a part of one of the companies that I have worked for or another.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I was around when “empowerment” first started to get used by everyone, and everyone seemed to suddenly believe that because they said it, it magically happened. And I won’t say where I was working at the time, out of respect for that hotel, and that company, but I can distinctly remember being a part of a lengthy debate about “empowerment” with a number of individuals from “corporate office” one day.

The debate stemmed from their belief that because we had rolled out the latest training campaign, circled around empowerment, and because we had (forced) every employee to attend, everyone was now empowered.

What they couldn’t get their heads around, was the fact that for many, many years preceding the drive towards empowerment, these same employees had been told things like, “If I want your opinion, I’ll tell you what it is,” and basically management had demonstrated over and over again that if you take any individual initiative, which deviates from your prescribed job description, we’ll discipline you for it, and eventually, if we write you up enough times, you’ll be terminated.

These same employees were suddenly expected to forget the past, forget the managers that they had worked with who had instilled fear in them, and become poster-children for the “born again empowerment movement.”

Where am I going with this?

I guess, to me anyway, it reinforced what I have believed for a long, long time, the power behind the simple gesture of leading by example, coupled with the unique skill that some managers possess, and actually, I would strike the word managers and replace it with leaders. Great leaders recognize the power of one, one individual, one instance, one example, reinforced, rewarded, and demonstrated, over and over again until it becomes second nature, to everyone in your organization.

THAT is how truly great companies have created a culture of consistently exceptional service, one employee at a time, one guest at a time, one "moment of truth" at a time.

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