I frantically ran to the airport gate that flashed "Boarding", while struggling to thread my belt through the loops as I ran. Harried after being caught in traffic longer than anticipated and going through the security monitor - twice, I was in real danger of missing my flight. Affectionately referred to in my family when you cut things like this close as a "Mr. Toad's Ride", this Mr. Toad's Ride was too close.
As I ran, up to the gate attendant, beginning to sweat, coat half on and belt undone, the seating area was discouragingly empty, the lines gone, the jet-way door ... closed. I was too late. All I could utter was a single word, "Please."
She looked me in the eye, took charge and said confidently,
"Come with me. Let's see what we can do." She unlocked the door to the jet-way, peered down the hallway, came back with a smile, waved her arm and smiled,
"Come on! Have a great day!"
Second scenario. Same scene (What can I say?. I am late more than I would like.) Different airline. The attendant's response was, "I'm sorry. You need to be here ten minutes before the flight. That is when the door is closed. There is another flight in four hours that you can fly standby on. Unfortunately I see you have a discounted ticket. You will need to pay the difference. What would you like to do?"
Both nice people. Both trying and wanting to do their best. Both thoroughly trained.
One airline did what I refer to as, Coaching the gap. And that resulted in a different approach to the same situation.
The first airline made sure that their employees understood that they had a desired outcome and that it was to be their focus in every situation.
The first airlines desired outcome was service care. In every situation, this was the vision, the focus - maximize service care. Then they coached the gap. They not only defined what service care was. They coached it. They experimented and played with it. They rehearsed what service care looked like, what it FELT like, to the customer and to the employee delivering it. They made sure everyone understood why achieving service care was important and could verbalize it in their own words so that it became a personal mission statement. They made sure everyone understood the importance of rules and how they supported their objective. They helped each person in the company not just understand, but internalize, how trying to achieve this outcome, each and every time, was tied to the companies success. But maybe even more importantly, how this focus was tied to their own success, both personally as well as professionally.
They encouraged them to believe in themselves, find their unique strengths and to use them to everyone's benefit - including their own. They made them powerful.
Coaching the gap with these empowered employees meant they had to identify and then coach individuals on the front line how best to identify and use their unique strengths to get the desired outcome.
The second airline did an excellent job training tactics to use in specific situations. Correct implementation of those tactics became interpreted by employees as their desired outcome.
Here's the kicker. Both airlines did everything right.
But the first airline had a different and specific objective.
Rules/tactics/strategies are useful only as guidelines to a specific desired outcome. But too often rules and the tactics that support them are trained as the desired outcome. And that is why so many employees when surveyed on the question,"Do you know what is expected of you at work?" answer, "No".
The first airline is posting excellent profits. The second airline is losing money and was recently purchased.