The other night I watched a documentary called ‘No Place On Earth’ that Explored the Remarkable Story of 38 Jews Who Hid In a Cave For 511 Days
This story was so overwhelmingly powerful that I immediately saw synergy between this incredible human endeavour and the way we act with our Leadership culture within our organisations.
When we truly believe in something, we are motivated to secure it, against all odds, no matter how difficult the journey. If we do not believe in what we believe 100% we will not lift a finger to help see it through. It is our deep- seated, innate devotion that makes success so crucial from any leader’s perspective.
In the spring of 1944, a group of 38 Ukrainian Jews emerged weak and jaundiced from a cave they’d used for nearly two years to escape the horrors of the Holocaust.
In 1942, as Hitler intensified his hold on Eastern Europe, a group of Jewish families disappeared into some of the vast underground caves and labyrinths of western Ukraine. This group ranged from toddlers to grandmothers, and for the next few years they lived, worked, ate and slept directly under the feet of those that would have sent them to their ultimate deaths. And yet the story had been forgotten until an American caver stumbled across the remnants of their underground home and set out to find out the survivors.
The extended family and several others lived in two separate caves for a total of nearly two years, including 344 consecutive days inside the colossal underground sanctuary known as ‘Priest’s Grotto’.
These families had no previous experience or equipment to deal with this situation. What they did have however, was a close knit family, a few helpful friends above ground, and the determination, leadership and teamwork to survive.
Spending such a length of time in a cave seems almost impossible, especially when you consider they had to contend with malnutrition; smoke from their cooking fire contaminating water sources; and getting lost in the pitch black labyrinth, and bats ( which carried disease); Smoke was particularly dangerous. One of the small children almost died from smoke inhalation in the first cave due to conditions of poor ventilation.
This family had no choice but to learn to adapt quickly and along the way developed some absolutely ingenious ways to overcome these hardships against all the odds. With few candles, light was limited to three short periods each day. Working as a close knit team they spent many hours wandering in the dark, memorizing the feel of the cave floor with their bare feet. It was like being blind and only feeling the directions in Braille.
What It Teaches Us
Their story teaches us some amazing lessons: Trust, family, loyalty, survival, and perseverance.
Are you really leading your team against all the Odds?
What is the culture of your leadership journey? Do you recognise Persistence and resilience will ultimately build the bridges between adversity and excellence in your organisation whether large or small?
The deepest questions, insights, awareness and answers rarely come to us as leaders or managers when we are sitting at the top of the mountain of success feeling like the keys to the universe are all ours.
No matter who we are, no matter what we have captured or accomplished; our success, achievement, sense of personal power, value or fulfilment can always change in a blink of an eye. We must constantly strive to keep on top of our goals.
The greatest power we hold is not in what we have, but in who we truly are when we choose to ignite, engage and unleash the leader we want our team to follow.
The worst life scenarios; the most adverse of treatment, abuse, humiliation, the greatest of failures, the pain of dealing with a threatening illness, or a personal stumbling block cannot steal the faith, hope, courage, potential and determination that burns inside us, unless we let it.
Resistance To Change
Here are 12 typical reasons why you may be resistance as a leader to the change you need that will set you apart from your competitors and make a real difference in your organisations culture;
- Lack of competence — Your team or employees will seldom admit to this, however a change in organisational traits necessitates changes in skills, and often you will not be able to make these transitions easily without confidence building.
- Misinterpretation about the need for change- If your staff do not understand the importance of the need for change and moving forward, this will result in resistance. Especially from those who strongly believe the current way of doing things works well…and has not been challenged by the threat of failure
- Zero trust — If your team are not properly briefed and given the confidence to be trusted to create new ways of working there is likely to be resistance
- Temporary Whim— So many employees belief that the change initiative is a temporary fad and after a few weeks/months will just slip back to the old ways. The momentum must be kept up. The family in the cave will have needed constant reassurance that they would get out alive and not just believed for a short time that they would escape and after this time no hope would set in
- Not being consulted — If your team are allowed to be part of the change there is less resistance. People like to know what’s going on, especially if their jobs may be affected. To work towards the end goal your team will need to be consulted and trusted with their own ideas
- Exhaustion/intensity — People who are overwhelmed by continuous change often end up resigning themselves to it and go along with the flow anyway. So you have them in body, but you do not have their hearts. Motivation hits rock bottom if this had happened in the cave everyone would have perished for sure!
- Poor communication — this is self evident. Poor communication is the downfall of all teams. If the family had not communicated at every level they would certainly have not survived!
- Changes to routines —Everyone has to step outside their own comfort zone even to the extent that they may feel uncomfortable in the short term to get long term benefits
- Fear of the unknown — One of the most common reasons for resistance is fear of the unknown. You team will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe and trust 100% in what you are asking them to do
- Benefits and rewards — Benefits and rewards for making the change are not seen as adequate for the trouble involved so make sure you motivate with regular rewards. In the cave this trait would have keep families going from the day to day routine.
AND FINALLY, Change is a journey…
Why Manage Change?
Change is the articulation of any strategic journey. As Change Leaders, it is our task to connect every impacted individual to that journey in such a way that they are able to change their own world of work in a lasting, meaningful and responsible way.
“A leader gains strength, power and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do” – Eleanor Roosevelt.
And if you’d like to buy the complete video get it from Amazon
This post describes a recent experience I had which falls outside of the norm and one which on the face of it I would have expected to have been resolved fairly easily. The resolution came from a completely unexpected source. Stick with me on the post title – nobody was hurt in the exchange at least not physically although the reputation of one brand was damaged in my eyes.
You will also learn about the three key ingredients that drive a great customer experience.
My cherished BMW convertible spends it’s time garaged most of the year in our holiday home in SW France. It’s the ideal car for touring whilst on vacation enabling passengers and driver to enjoy balmy evenings with the roof down. However it has a fault that has developed where the tyres aren’t lasting as long as they should and so need replacing more frequently than the norm. A visit to my local French BMW dealer is about an hour away and without the use of a courtesy car or collection and delivery service it makes any use of the dealer an inconvenience. I’ve also had poor service from them in the past when the car needed a service and belt change during previous holidays.
So to make life easier (so I’d hoped) I opted for a geometry check and adjustment by the local tyre centre. However they were unable to correctly align the geometry and hence resolve the tyre wear as the adjustments had reached their maximum point and the geometry was still out. My French isn’t good enough to fully understand what the technician at the centre was saying when this was explained to me especially as he was using jargon in French. I don’t know if the car needs new control arm bushes etc. but they did leave me with a print out of the alignment readings before and after adjustment, but of course it’s all in French.
So I needed to find someone to help me understand the problem from the data and then ascertain what needs to be done to fix it. At least then if and when I do visit the BMW dealer then I can go armed with a better understanding of the technical issues and what it will mean in terms of cost.
So I embarked upon a search for a translation of the terms appearing on the data sheet provided by the tyre centre from French to English. Google gave me nothing. So I contacted BMW UK Customer Service, several ex-pat English speaking mechanics working in France, various forums, some UK tyre centres operating across Europe and several alignment equipment companies that specialize in vehicle alignment and that export their products globally. One even had offices in Canada so perhaps they would have French speaking Canadians working there I thought.
Most contacts responded with less than useful advice but two in particular stand out for the contrast with which they rose to the challenge of helping someone in need.
BMW Under Delivers On My Expectations
As a long term BMW owner having driven dozens of new cars I was unsure of the service I would receive from BMW as I’d never before dealt directly with BMW UK as a customer. All my previous needs had been met by the dealers in the UK who had sold and serviced my cars. So this time it would be the Customer Service Department of BMW in the UK that would need to respond.
When I contacted them via their website I received the following response, 4 days later. I’ve added in bold some thoughts I had as I read this response:
Thank you for your online communication dated September 5, 2014. I have investigated your enquiry and I am sorry to inform you that BMW UK do not offer a translation service. Due to this it will not be possible for me to translate the French geometry terms (but with some extra effort you could find somebody that can). I can only recommend contacting the tyre fitting centre where you had the work carried out to request that an English speaking representative can translate the terms for you (wow! as if I couldn’t have worked this out for myself. I’m glad you thought of that one). I apologise that I have not been able to assist you on this matter.
I have also been unable to find your vehicle in the BMW UK Database with the registration you have provided. Therefore would it be possible for you to provide me with a copy of your V5 document so that I can update our database accordingly. (Yes it would be possible but I’m struggling to see how this helps me so why should I bother?) Once again thank you for contacting BMW UK.
American Hunter Kills BMW Customer Service Agent
Now contrast this with the response from American based Hunter Engineering which designs, manufactures and sells a wide range of passenger car and truck service equipment including Computer-based wheel alignment systems.
I copied and and pasted the same message I had sent to all options and sent it via Hunter’s website and within one hour I received this response. Again I’ve added in bold some thoughts I had as I read their email:
Thanks for reaching out! My name is Madeline and I work in Hunter’s Marketing Department. I will personally ensure that this is taken care of by our Translation Department by Monday. I hope this time frame suits you! Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!” (Wow! Speed of response to acknowledge the issue, a personal commitment and ownership and a deadline offered too! What a great first response – somebody on the case.)
What then followed was an exchange of emails asking me for further information, followed by involvement of Hunter’s Technical Training Manager, Doug Felt who provided some technical input. I also had some images sent to me as well as a translation by Tom Ksiazek (Hunter’s Regional Manager – Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand) who was travelling at the time and said:
I have received your print out; I just arrived in the UK this AM and will be with our UK Distributor Thursday and Friday. I will (over the next days) configure an aligner with this style print out (in English) and send it to you so that you have an “English” template to compare your French print out with.
Within the time it took for BMW UK to respond with “Sorry Can’t Help”, Hunter employees had worked together to provide me with exactly what I needed and further more two weeks later I received some additional images of the adjustment points to help me further. Superb service. And from an organisation I have never done business with nor am likely to ever do business with again in the future.
I have written before of the need for plenty of AOK in order for the customer to be WOWed by your service. Attitude, Opportunity and Knowledge. Both BMW and Hunter were given the same Opportunity, but Hunter employees seemed to be driven by a different Attitude that drove them to make the most of this opportunity.
In her final email to me Madeline says:
Hunter Engineering is not only dedicated to customer service for our immediate customer base, but passionate about informing vehicle owners and prolonging the health of their vehicles. Our company culture is committed to going above and beyond, and I am truly happy to be a part of it.
Everyone at Hunter also possessed ample Knowledge too about the levels of empowerment they have and how to go about seeking a solution even if they themselves didn’t actually have the direct answer. They knew how to make it come about. They knew the importance of going the extra mile.
So that is why the title of this post is a true reflection of the experience and why in the battle to impress and go the extra mile American Hunter Kills BMW Customer Service Agent for the service they offered.
And Hunter’s ammunition was little more than the application of AOK – lethal in your armory for the battle to win the war for customer loyalty.
I’m sorry that I can’t make a decision to purchase Hunter equipment so I hope in some way this post helps spread the word of how great their service was.
Firstly, I will explain for those unfamiliar to biking terms that ‘Bonk’ is cycling’s classic term for hitting a brick wall.
My eldest son is into Mountain Biking in a ‘big’ way. Not only does he ride downhill extensively in Europe, but he has his own company specialising in titanium suspension springs for Mountain Bikes and nearly new bike parts.
Recently he noticed that easyJet have changed their sports equipment weight allowance for passengers with bikes impacting their customer experience.
Previously, with an appropriate 32kg maximum weight, a bicycle could be well packaged and transported in a padded bicycle bag.
Unfortunately, they have now have reduced the maximum weight by 9kg! The maximum weight is now just 23kg, meaning it’s almost impossible to pack a bicycle without coming in over weight!
We are exactly not sure why easyJet have reduced the maximum weight allowance for a bicycle or even why they have reduced the maximum weight by so much?
We would assume that the majority of customers who travel with bicycles are either mountain bikers going on holiday, or cyclists with touring bikes. We are not sure if they are precisely aware of how much a bicycle weighs, so here are so facts and figures;
- A full suspension mountain bike on average will weigh around 18kg.
- A touring bike with panniers on average will weigh around 23kg.
Now, with the 23kg maximum weight, for a full suspension mountain bike, that leaves just 5kg to package and securely box the bike, which is required as per their criteria which states:
5kg to package and securely box a bike is simply not enough. The average bicycle bag will weigh around 7kg on its own!
Let me break it down for you..
18kg mountain bike + 7kg bicycle bag = 25kg (2kg overweight!!)
A 2kg overweight bag will incur a £20 penalty fee at the airport, each way swell!
The easyJet Experience Begins
So, imagine you are going on a mountain bike holiday to the Alps. As a Customer of easyJet you will have to pay £70 return alone just to take the bike, then you pay an additional £40 worth of penalty fees at the airport for being 2kg overweight! This will surely encourage passengers (customers) to drive to their holiday destinations instead of flying or choose another carrier.
Because of the new maximum weight allowance, many of easyJet’s customers will have to replace their bicycle bags for a cardboard box instead, which offer little or no protection if mishandled.
In turn, surely they will most likely see an increase in damaged bicycles, insurance claims, complaints and unhappy customers, which can only be bad news for their Customer charter, something that they surely don’t want?
My son a regular easyJet flyer recently averted incurring the £40 worth of overweight baggage penalty fees on taking his mountain bike with him by resorting to using a cardboard box – which has resulted in a slightly damaged bike.
He also removed some of the parts from the bike frame itself and put carried these in his hand luggage instead. (Surely more dangerous than in the hold – but ‘still’ on the same flight!) He actually removed the bicycle from the box at the check in desk and did this in front of the check – in assistant to make a point of how ridiculous this whole thing was.
Unless they decide to increase the maximum weight allowance for bicycles back to a reasonable weight, they are going to notice a decrease in customers during the summer season if they have to spend extra for those overweight baggage penalty fees.
At the time of writing this post easyJet have acknowledged the issue on their Facebook page so it will be interesting to see how this develops. We’ll keep you posted.
But it does beg the following questions for other CEX managers:
- What policies have you changed that are causing a negative impact upon the customer’s experience?
- When you change policies does anyone actually consider the impact upon the customer journey?
- Are you about to make any policy changes and if so who is standing in the customer’s shoes to consider the impact?
This change in policy has so far earned easyJet our One Odd Shoe Award the first of 2014. Let’s see if they resolve it and win a GoldenShoe Award instead.
It Didn’t Take Long For easyJet To Back Pedal
Since releasing this post we have received an important update from easyJet which we received this within 24 hours of our post being published.
Their bike weight limit is being raised to 32kg from Saturday 11th January. Although it will take a number of weeks to be applied to their systems no customers will be charged an excess for bikes between 23kg and 32kg.
Thanks to easyJet for taking the trouble to let us know of their change of heart, this moves them into our category of a Golden Shoe Award. On this occasion it’s awarded not for back pedalling (no pun intended) but for the rapid response they took and the fact the change is in-line with customer feedback.
On a personal level I am from a design background and so use my creative skills to design and develop various business initiatives. However, I find that there are very few people in the business world that can tap into their creative talent and very few people actually ‘doodle’ or ‘sketch’.
As a professional, I sketch almost daily, within team meetings, client interactions; brain storming sessions, the list goes on… The entire wall of our studio is covered with sketches, mapping out everything from phone conversations to rough training activities, to the more serious presentations for large corporates.
As business continues to drive positive change in the world, creativity is an increasingly essential part of organizational success. Encouraging creativity is a vital function of good leadership.
Why Sketch or Doodle?
In the first instance scribbling and sketching can release you from getting bogged down in technology and focus you on finding the perfect business solution, so freeing you to take risks that you might not otherwise have taken.
I love mood boards because they help us understand our clients, their objectives and how they’d like their brand to feel. It’s so important to us that we work with the client to identify what feels right as well as looks great, and mood boards really unlock the gap between what a client says they want (or even thinks they want) and what they actually want.
Our vision boards on our studio walls are our most powerful way that we visualise our goals and keep 100% focused on everything we do.
Books To Read And Videos To Watch.
In her book ‘Game Storming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rule breakers, and Change Makers’ Sunni Brown writes how creating an environment for creative thinking and innovation can be a daunting challenge to any organisation. Her book includes more than 80 games to help you break down barriers, communicate better, and generate new ideas, insights, and strategies. There is a unique collection of games that encourage engagement and creativity while bringing more structure and clarity to the workplace. I highly recommend it as a toolkit.
In her TED talk Sunny goes on to explain the benefits of doodling and even offers an alternative to the definition found in the Oxford Dictionary:
“Doodling is really to make spontaneous marks to help yourself think. That is why millions of people doodle. Here’s another interesting truth about the doodle: People who doodle when they’re exposed to verbal information retain more of that information than their non-doodling counterparts. We think doodling is something you do when you lose focus, but in reality, it is a pre-emptive measure to stop you from losing focus. Additionally, it has a profound effect on creative problem-solving and deep information processing.”
Background History of The ‘Doodle’
“In the 17th century, a doodle was a simpleton or a fool, as in “Yankee Doodle.” In the 18th century, it became a verb, and it meant to swindle or ridicule or to make fun of someone. In the 19th century, it was a corrupt politician. And today, we have what is perhaps our most offensive definition, at least to me, which is the following: “To doodle officially means to dawdle, to dilly dally, to monkey around, and to make meaningless marks, to do something of little value, substance or import and,”my personal favorite, “to do nothing.” No wonder people are averse to doodling at work!
According to Linda Silverman, author of ‘Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner Upside-Down Brilliance’.
The Visual-Spatial Learner, 37% of the population are visual learners. If so many people learn better visually, we can expect, then, that some of them learn better by putting a speech, lecture or meeting into visual and tangible form through pictures or doodles, rather than by being provided with pictures or doodles (which would be the product of another person’s mind).
Humans have always had a desire to visually represent what’s in their minds and memory and to communicate those ideas with others. Even early cave paintings were a means of interacting with others, allowing ideas and images to move from one person’s mind to another’s. The purpose of visual language has always been to communicate ideas to others. A sketch or a doodle is to, visually commit to memory a concept that we want to both empathize and interact with.
Recently I came across a book called ‘Back Of The Napkin: Solving Problems And Selling Ideas With Pictures’ by Dan Roam. Roam’s original book provides a whole new way of looking at business problems and ideas. He demonstrates how thinking with pictures can help you discover and develop new ideas, solve problems in unexpected ways, and dramatically improve your ability to share your insights with others.
He quotes;“What if there was a way to more quickly look at problems, more intuitively understand them, more confidently address them, and more rapidly convey to others what we’ve discovered? What if there was a way to make business problem solving more efficient, more effective, and — as much as I hate to say it — perhaps even more fun? There is. It’s called visual thinking, and it’s what this book is all about: solving problems with pictures.”
But just how do working walls in a business environment become an invaluable commodity in design thinking? Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO says
“Design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
Fundamentally if we all think like designers we will actually be able to transform the way our organizations develop their services, processes, and strategy. We can show the way to people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of everyday business challenges.
Creativity can be a great strength in the culture of an organisation, its approach and alignment can be at the very heart and soul of success in any discipline or industry.
Creative thinking in business starts with having empathy for your customers (whether they’re internal or external), and you certainly can’t get that just sitting behind a desk! .
.So why not use those yellow Post-its and marker pens to creatively solve each problem your organisation has. Go on a journey map it on the walls. So, what are you waiting for? Doodle!
When My Daughter Saskia was born a friend gave me a poster that said “What we are and who we become is determined by those who love us.” A very true and poignant insight indeed for a new parent. I believe this can be extended and applied to the work place too.
“What we are and who we become is determined by those who lead us.” – that’s my quote by the way.
So I wanted to share with you two past experiences, one concerning an MD for BMW UK, and the other an involving Gary Richardson the BBC sports presenter.
Read on to find out how both these individuals impacted upon my customer experience of their brands in two very different but positive ways.
A Change of Leadership at BMW UK
BMW UK had appointed a new managing director – Tim Abott. I know Tim but not well. Our paths have crossed on numerous occasions throughout our careers, we have what I would call a passing acquaintance – we’d acknowledge each other in the street, say hi and stop for a chat for a moment or two, but we’re no closer than that. So upon learning of his new appointment in the press I quickly penned (no that’s not right – keyed) an email offering my congratulations and swiftly hit the send button.
I guess I didn’t really expect a reply based upon previous experiences of sending emails to very senior execs. After all Tim and I are no more than acquaintances and the purpose anyway of my email was to wish him well not to trigger a response. I imagined Tim would have far more important and urgent correspondence to deal with given the crisis the automotive sector is in and the burden of taking on such a challenging role.
So I was very surprised to receive a message back from Tim within the day thanking me for my best wishes. For me this is a green shoot of hope. I believe Tim’s response truly is the measure of the man and gives some insight into the way he does business and what’s important to him. Surely if he can take the trouble to reply to me it indicates that he sees great value in communication, relationships and the value of a few moments to say thank you?
Those of you that know me well will know that I have been a regular supplier of consultancy and training services to the BMW Group for over 12 years so my experience of both BMW Group brands and what it’s like to work with the organisation is extensive. I sincerely hope that through Tim’s leadership others will follow and demonstrate that even in times of pressure and of economic uncertainty, a simple human connection can ensure a large blue chip organisation can stand out as a caring and emotionally grounded one. All those that Tim now leads including the influence he has over BMW and MINI dealerships must use every touch point with customers to demonstrate their brand promise. After all
“People may forget what you did, they may forget what you said but they never forget how you made them feel.”
If Tim can find the few minutes to reply and treat me in this way, what more will he do for those that he knows better, his employees, his dealers and his customers. I wish him well as he certainly has his work cut out given the economic state the market’s in.
“What we are and who we become is determined by those who lead us.”
The BBC Journalist and the 13 yr old
There’s no doubt about it Jonathan Ross screwed up big time and the press had a field day. But he seems to come out of it unscathed for the time being as the headlines focus on the credit crunch, global melt down as well as the bankers and their pensions.
But at the time it illustrated how a brand can be damaged by actions and careless words. And for a while I thought less of Mr Ross and of the BBC. How could they have been so misguided? But then along came that green shoot of hope we often look for to indicate all is well. An action that restored faith in the brand. Not from Mr Ross of course but this time it came from Radio 4 and 5 sports presenter Gary Richardson.
In September 08 Gary had spoken at my son’s school speech day. He talked to a packed hall of students, parents and teachers for almost an hour sharing his colourful stories of the sports personalities and celebrities he’d interviewed during his career and the events he’d covered over the years and of his recent experience covering the Olympics.
As it happened on this speech day the school’s choice of speaker was very relevant, for one boy at least, my 13 year old son. His ambition is to be a sports presenter so to meet one in person was a golden opportunity for him.
After the speech my son and I met with Gary and I asked him for some words of guidance about a career in his field. Gary’s response was a surprise. Bear in mind here’s a man who must be very busy, he gets up at 4.00 am to be at his desk from 6.00 am, he frequently travels the world to meet the sporting world’s greatest. He must have a very hectic diary indeed. Gary didn’t just give words of advice he offered the chance for my son to come and meet with him at the BBC and watch him prepare and then broadcast Sport on Sunday. WOW! what a great opportunity for an aspiring sports journalist of 13.
So back in November on a cold and frosty Sunday morning we did just that, we met Garry at 7.30 am at the BBC, had a tour around some of the studios, visited where they filmed various well known TV serials, had a coffee at Gary’s desk and then spent the rest of the time in the recording studio as he prepared and then broadcast his Sport on Sunday show. It was the morning after the Joe Calzaghe and Joy Jones Jr fight so there was plenty to report on.
Gary’s actions over shone those of Jonathan Ross. My faith in the BBC brand restored – no in fact strengthened because of the actions of Gary. Like Tim he took the time and trouble to do something that valued the human touch, that demonstrated a behaviour that built a positive impression of the brand.
In Conclusion Then…
What we are and who we become is determined not only by those who love us but in the workplace by those who lead us. The actions of Gary and Tim demonstrated a personal behavior that can impact upon others. It demonstrated that no matter how busy you are there’s always enough time to fire off a thank you note or to fit someone into your busy day.
1. When you next receive an email from some one that you don’t know at all or not well, how will you respond? It could be an acquaintance, a customer or a supplier. Will your response build a better impression of your brand or will you simply hit the delete button?
2. What could you do today to build a better impression of what others have of you and therefore your brand?
3. Who do you know that could use my examples as a way to make a point with their team? When you’ve worked out who they are foward this post to them.