Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Role Models

As a schoolchild I had compulsory swimming lessons at the local baths every week. Being quite competitive, I was determined to be in the top set which meant the chance to go in for the hard swimming achievement badges. On the day of group selection I was horrified to find we had to swim across the pool using front crawl. I was a reasonable swimmer but I’d never even attempted front crawl I didn’t even know the rudiments of the stroke. All seemed doomed to failure. Luckily a new girl had recently arrived in school, she was American and was an amazing swimmer. She glided effortlessly through the water using whatever stroke she wanted. I decided upon a foolhardy, yet with hindsight, quite good plan. I would watch carefully what she did and simply copy her technique. Which I did, incorporating a long dive and holding my breath for the whole distance I managed exemplary front crawl and learned some valuable lessons.
  1. Always do the things with complete confidence, it gives the impression you know what you’re doing
  2. Technique is everything
  3. Be prepared to take a risk, the worst thing that can happen is you will drown
  4. Find the very best people and learn from what they do
  5. God Bless Americans

People hold the customer experience you get in USA as the role model for customer service. I have had great service when visiting America; I have also had quite the reverse. What you notice wherever you go is that you will get pockets of great practice. If one person is brilliant then usually many are all brilliant. People follow a role model. They want to be like the person most admired in the organisation.
Culture is contagious and self managing. Take the example of the fantastic Italian waiter we had at a restaurant recently. He had the accent, the mannerisms, the skills and the look of the other brilliant waiters. When you heard him ‘off duty’ he had the broadest Yorkshire accent and had no connections with Italy except that he served pizzas for a living. He probably didn’t even realise that when he was at work he became Italian! The culture he immersed himself in everyday meant he could give his best, indeed he couldn’t give anything else.
Managers in particular need to be constantly vigilant of themselves. Their team is a reflection of themselves, they are the role models. Their team want to be like them. If they are not what you want them to be - then you need to look to yourself. People learn by copying the actions of those that look like they know what they are doing.
WARNING. This doesn’t apply to learning front crawl. If you want to become a master swimmer, get lessons. If you use my technique as a model be warned it could result in being humiliated at the public swimming pool as the lifeguard pulls you from the water.

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