Friday, August 22, 2008

MBWA Revisited

Since I first got into TQM while stationed at Naval Hospital Orlando back in the early 90's, I've been a great proponent of Tom Peters' Management by Walking Around (MBWA). The whole idea revolves around getting out of your office, cube farm, etc and walking amongst your staff. There is no better way to get a real picture of what's actually going on in the "trenches". By getting a first hand look at the atmosphere you can actually head off potential problems before they happen, or get the opportunity to reward someone as they do something good.

Most employees won't go to their managers with problems - they just go to other employees. This is in no way a productive, motivating way of business. In MBWA the supervisor is "around" so employees don't have to go out of their way to find them. Talk to employees and find out their feelings and ideas. Let them know that their input is encouraged and appreciated. This is not a spying mission.

A lot of supervisors just don't like to get out among the troops, but the benefits of just walking around strongly outweigh the "inconvenience" of it. The thing that you, as the supervisor, must expect is - da-da-da - honest feedback. But if you make MBWA a routine part of your day - every day - you'll find that suspicions will go away and productive honesty will increase.

Check out Tom Peters. He's been around awhile but his ideas are still highly relevant Mr. Peters' books In Search of Excellence and The Pursuit of WOW! are still on my best-read list.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Restaurant Service

I had such a great customer service experience this weekend I just have to share it. My wife and I went to Buffalo Beach in Virginia Beach this weekend. This is a "family-friendly spin on the sports bar and grill". We'd been there once before and really enjoyed the atmosphere AND the food. Judy ordered the Caesar Salad with chicken. When it was brought to the table some of the chicken was pretty burnt. They were very busy, so we understand "stuff" happens. About a minute later our beverages were brought over and we asked for the dish to be taken back - we didn't realize it was the bartender, not a waitress. Without hesitating or looking for the waitress, she apologized and took the dish to the kitchen. In the next 5-10 minutes, both the bartender and our waitress stopped by at least once to ask if they could do anything else - all with a smile - every time. They seemed so dedicated to making sure that we were happy with our dining experience.

I was so impressed with these two that I asked to talk to a manager. The person who came to the table actually happened to be one of the the owners, Steve. I told him how we appreciated their staff's concern and smiles and that it was because of their service (and the atmosphere and the FANTASTIC food) that we'll continue to come back.

It's opportunities like this that staff have to kick it into a different gear. If handled wrong, this could have easily turned into a "we won't be back" situation. I like to tell people about good restaurants we've been to and the better the service, the higher the praise. Four thumbs up to Buffalo Beach!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

To Smile or Not to Smile

Donald Trump wrote in his blog this week that "a German scientist has proven that people forced to smile and take on-the-job insults suffer long-lasting stress that may harm their health". C'mon now. Is this really something that today's business leaders need a study to prove?

Any descent leader - at any level - should know that if someone is 'mentally abused' and forced to keep their feelings inside by masking them, they're going to be miserable. In order to be a successful leader, you must always be open to the feelings of your employees and counterparts. This is basic damage control. You wouldn't abuse your vehicle and expect it to consistently give you its best would you? Then why would you do that with a human-being - and a colleague at that.

Employees shouldn't need to be babied. They shouldn't need to have their hands held. And you surely shouldn't hold back from expressing your displeasure with someone. What you should do is watch the temper. Insulting and yelling does not cause motivation. It's just the opposite. Sure the person may then turn around and give you a better product. But how long do you think that's going to last? How long do you think they're going to last. I've known people, and I'm sure you have to, that have left great jobs at wonderful companies ONLY because of their leader. You'll find that most people quit their boss, not their job.

So take a deep breath and rethink your response the next time you want to tear into someone. You might just be saving their job - or their life.