A Leadership Lesson from the FL Keys

| | Leading Organizations

When you think of a place like the Florida Keys, Leadership is probably not the topic that comes to mind. 

Yet leadership is not limited to corporations or boardrooms.  It doesn’t matter whether you are wearing a business suit or a bathing suit.

To be a leader simply requires that you speak up, step up or stand up for something that matters to you and makes a difference for others.  Leadership can be demonstrated by anyone, anywhere.

Here is an example of leadership in action that I experienced while on vacation in the Florida Keys.  After all, great customer service, and the leadership required to make it happen, is possible even in a place as laid back as this.

Here’s the story…

We had just come off an excursion to Chica Reef.  It was magnificent!  We had fresh fish from the night before that we were going to have the restaurant prepare.  So we were in a great mood and in no hurry. 

Unfortunately, our waiter was a nice guy, but a lousy server.  He could not even get a drink order of two iced teas, a sprite and a coke right.  We watched 2 tables come and go and still no sign of our meal.  We asked multiple times.  All we got were apologies and reasons. Finally I went to talk to the only other person I saw – the bartender.

A few minutes later she brought over free drinks, an appetizer and told us our order was being prepared now and would be delivered shortly.  She apologized without making excuses and made a promise that she delivered on.  She didn’t blame the waiter, but rather noted he was very new and she appreciated the feedback so he could help him improve.

Her words and actions gave us something critical to effective leadership – giving people certainty about what they can count on from you. 

The Leadership Lesson…

When people are uncertain about what they can count on from you because it wasn’t communicated clearly, promises are made and consistently not kept, or excuses are made in lieu of action and results, you lose credibility.  Furthermore, the people you are serving or leading feel distressed and are distracted from what they are there to do rather than motivated and engaged.

We still had to wait a while longer for our food.  Yet once we were certain someone had taken the lead, we could once again relax and just enjoy where we were.  Two hours after we had arrived we left both happy and satisfied despite the long wait and lousy service we had encountered.

You may not be able to give people certainty about things like promising they will have a job for a lifetime, but there are probably a lot of things you can give people certainty about in your words and deeds that would matter to them.

What do you think some of those things might be?


Enter A Comment

John Thurlbeck   |   09 August 2013   |   Reply

Hi Susan

That was a lovely story and some great leadership demonstrated by the bartender. I wonder if she realised that? Owning mistakes, being clear about commitments, supporting not blaming colleagues, and following through on promises are all key leadership traits that I drew from your post.

I also hope you had a fabulous holiday! Thanks for sharing! John 🙂

Susan Mazza   |   09 August 2013   |   Reply

Nice to see you John! I would be surprised if she thought about what she did as anything other than just doing her job. If we want to cultivate leadership in others I think it is so important to help them recognize leadership in action which is why I love examples like this.

It was indeed a fabulous vacation!

Tammy Schaefer   |   09 August 2013   |   Reply

Hi Susan, what an awesome story! I agree with John, the bartender showed amazing leadership. This could be translated into many places in our lives. It’s so easy to blame others rather than own up and bring a solution to the table. Thanks for the reminder.

Susan Mazza   |   09 August 2013   |   Reply

Leadership (and an absence of it) really does show up all around us. As you allude to, leadership is about the mindset rather than the position. “Own up and bring a solution to the table” is a great way to articulate what I mean by “Stepping Up” when I talk about the three fundamental acts of leadership – speak up. step up, stand up.

Thanks Tammy!

Ramu Iyer   |   10 August 2013   |   Reply

Exercising restraint, the bartender openly welcomed the customer’s complaint
Feelings of anger or selfishness were neither in her head or heart

Walking both in the customer’s shoes and in her colleague’s shoes
With feelings of love, compassion, patience and tolerance

Demonstrating an experience of Attunement, Benevolence and Clarity (ABC)
The ABC of unconsciously selling through selfless acts of customer service

This ABC moment is without any screen scripting or rehearsals
Practicing authentic love and leadership

No one can claim to be perfect. Aspiring managers in this multipolar world can opt-in to learn from this experience and create other experiences to influence culture change. That would be wonderful.

Susan Mazza   |   12 August 2013   |   Reply

“unconsciously selling through selfless acts of customer service” – well said Ramu