Noah's Tuesday Tidbit: Stop Holding up the Line! Escalators, Exits, and What Your Company Really Needs

I was walking through the Detroit airport the other day and was in a bit of a rush to catch my next flight.

I had to board a train to get from one end of the terminal to the other. As the train doors opened, the guy in front of me stood in a daze before finally, and slowly moving forward narrowly passing through as the doors shut. 

As we got off the train, I was behind him again.

Have you ever had this experience?

I went to the left to make a pass, and he moved to the left.

When I switched directions to the right, he went to the right. It was like I being intentionally blocked.

We headed down the escalator and suddenly when we got to the bottom he just stopped and stood for a few seconds staring at his phone.

He seemed to lack any awareness of the 50 to 100 people coming down the escalator behind him.

Self-awareness is a virtue.

It’s a virtue for people individually, and a virtue in companies as well.

Does your company have enough self-awareness? 

Do you have enough self-awareness as a leader to understand how your actions and behaviors are affecting others?

Customer feedback is a great way to create a self-aware company.

One of the most valuable things we do with many of our clients is to help them to truly gather qualitative customer feedback by having meaningful conversations with customers on behalf of our clients.

The discussions would be very different handled internally, but these conversations allow us to get a real view for our clients of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The majority of the time, it’s excellent feedback and we’re able to gather and share powerful case studies, and the tangible impact our clients are having.

This creates a much stronger level of self-awareness. But what about the flip side?

With one large manufacturing client I was brought in to work with, nearly everyone was terrified of the President of the company. They often talked about “walking on eggshells” and “ we never know what’s coming next” or “who’s going to get yelled at today?

The CEO thought he was leading in a powerful way. But he was wrong. Was he inspiring the best work of his people? Not even close. The good news was that he was willing to change, but it took an outsider to glean the information that was right in front of him for years.

Look, we’ve all been caught in that moment of being the guy at the bottom of the escalator.

We’ve all zoned out for a few moments and had to get out someone’s way. We’ve all had those moments where we’ve said, “Sorry, my mind was somewhere else.”

But we’re often aware of it, and we move on. We try to improve and not do it again. At least not the same day! It’s delusional to continue to manage a company this way or to operate an organization with a true lack of self-awareness of how the outside world views you.

I’ve seen other companies, successful companies, that repeatedly have the same complaints, criticism, and feedback for years, but yet they do nothing about it.  Why? Why not fix those issues? Is it a complete lack of self-awareness or, perhaps, self-absorption?

Here’s a couple of questions for you to consider:

What internal and external mechanisms do you have in place to ensure you're continually becoming more self-aware?

Do you utilize outsides coaches and experts?

Do you not just gather customer feedback, but actually review it?

Remember the main problem with NPS (net promoter score). Who cares if you got a 3, 6, or 8 out of 10. Nobody. None of those score matter if you do nothing with that information. So what if you have a gazillion positive reviews. Are those poor reviews on Glassdoor really just disgruntled employees who don’t know any better, or is there something to be learned there?

Here’s a really strong example.

My colleague Shawn worked with a company to build a system that reviewed and categorized every single call to a call center, whether it was a sales call or a customer support call.

This system automated the categorization of every call, and immediately notified managers about any exceptional calls (either positive or negative). Most importantly, it allowed the company to see exactly which offices were doing the best & worst in terms of customer delight (or dread).  With a system like this in place, it became impossible for any customer information to get “lost in the shuffle” – instead, every location could focus on what the most pressing issues of the day, week, and the quarter were.

Your Challenge For This Week: If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough objective feedback (and for most companies, there’s a good reason to worry about that), spend the next week engaging in my Pick-3 Process (just email me and I’ll send you the Pick-3 workbook)

You’ll be amazed at what you learn by doing these simple reach outs.  If you want to explore a more scalable and high impact solution, then reach out directly to me, and we can talk about high octane “self-awareness” interventions.

By the way, I typed this entire email while waiting for the guy at the base of the escalator to move.  Canadians are so polite!