Today’s audio is 14:14 minutes long.
In 1987 Jan Carlson, then President of Scandinavian Airlines, published a book entitled, Moments of Truth. It was a book about all the moments of truth that happen for every company as they strive to serve customers. All those touchpoints are moments of truth where we either dazzle customers, disappoint customers or give them no good reason to remember us at all.
In the book he observed two passengers talking where one observed a coffee stain on the flipdown tray. The passenger remarked to her traveling companion, “If the tray tables are dirty, what do you suppose the engine maintenance is like?” Little things matter. They speak to diligence in big things.
The Moments of Truth With Your Boss
What are your moments of truth? When do the opportunities come that give you an opportunity to shine…or fail to shine?
Customers are both internal and external. As a leader, your internal customers – your most important customers – are your direct reports. They’re also those people you report directly to. Internal customers exist both up and down the chain. You have to be diligent to serve both groups faithfully, consistently and uniquely. That last one might escape you, but it shouldn’t.
Uniqueness is what you can do that others can’t. Or won’t. Why are YOU special? Why are YOU able to deliver in moments of truth better than anybody else?
This is the first part of a 2-part coaching session. In session 12 we’ll focus a bit more on the moments of truth that exist with your direct reports. For now, I’d like to concentrate on your boss. If you don’t necessarily have a boss, then I’d like you to think about investors, financial partners, stockholders, or other less traditional forms of “a boss.”
This is a customer you cannot afford to disappoint. It may also be a customer where a single poor moment of truth sticks to you like glue. Many bosses have long memories when it comes to being disappointed and short memories when it comes to being dazzled. You have to manage your own performance and your own reputation.
I have no way of knowing all the circumstances or challenges facing you with “the boss.” So, today I’m hopeful that I can give you some general ideas that will spark greater creativity and higher performance in your career. As you already know, it’s not necessarily how you see things, but it’s how your boss sees them that really counts. If your boss sees coffee stains on the tray table, then it means your engine maintenance is suspect, too. Together, we have to make sure the tray tables of your career are pristine!
Three Ingredients To Help You Create More Powerful Moments Of Truth With Your Boss
Remove this ingredient from the most talented leader and you’ve got a failure. Consider your own team members. Think about their qualifications, qualities and skills. Now, remove willingness and what do you have left? Nothing. You’ve got your hands full of trouble.
Maybe you’ve got race horses who can run like nobody’s business, but if they refuse to run when you need them to, or they won’t run where you need them to — then what good are they? And don’t talk to me about potential because we both know you can’t achieve success with unrealized potential. It’s fool’s gold to think potential will ever get you to the bank.
Yes, we want talent. Yes, we want solid experience. But without high willingness nothing else matters!
Your boss needs to see a high degree of willingness in you. That can manifest itself in more ways than we’ve got time to even list.
- Your willingness might be seen in how dedicated you are to get the job finished.
- It might be seen in how proactive you are to solve problems before they’re ever seen by anybody else.
- Maybe your willingness will be seen by your boss in how prepared your team is to respond to a crisis.
- Your willingness might be seen in how well you develop people.
- Maybe your boss sees your willingness in your ability to make tough decisions.
You can likely make a much more extensive list because you know your boss and the expectations you’re up against. Hopefully, you’ve got a good handle on how your boss gauges your success. Those are important things for you to consider because they’re your moments of truth. Neglect them at your own peril.
Be willing to always elevate your performance. Customers – this includes bosses – know when we’re doing our best to serve them. Your boss will know, too. Find ways to make sure the boss knows that nobody will demonstrate a higher degree of willingness. Refuse to lose.
It’s been said that great leaders see the future first. That’s vision.
To dazzle your number one customer – your boss – you need superior vision. You need the ability to see what others don’t. It means you see things before others do.
Over 30 years ago I had a favorite lunch place. It was a restaurant directly behind my office. I’d eat there at least 3 times a week.
One day I strolled over and waited with the usual lunch crowd for a table. Service was always good. I never requested a specific server.
This time I was seated in a section with a brand new waitress. She promptly greeted me shortly after I sat down. She took my drink order and off she went. The carpet was hunter green and I noticed a white wrapper to a straw about 10 feet away, directly in the path where people (including servers) walked. Being fanatical about customer service (and clean tray tables), I kept watching this straw wrapper. One server walked over it. Another. Still another.
This new waitress returned with my iced tea, took my order and went directly to the straw wrapper, picked it up and put it in her apron. I told my lunch companion, “I’m going to sit in her section from now on.” Anybody, especially a new employee, with that kind of vision deserved my business. For a number of years I faithfully sat in her section. Even if I took my wife or family to this place I’d wait to be seated in her section. She was that good.
And it all started because she saw something nobody else seemed to see. And she did something about it.
I wish I could give you some magic beans when it comes to awareness and vision, but I can’t. I do believe they can be improved and learned. I also believe some people have it and some don’t. It’s likely that you’re in a position of leadership because you’ve got it. To some degree. I’m asking you to heighten it and make your vision even more keen than it’s been in the past.
See things as your boss sees them. That’s a special kind of vision. One your boss will quickly appreciate. And keep on appreciating.
You can’t fix it if you can’t see it. You can’t improve it if you don’t see the opportunity. You can’t develop people if you don’t first see them able to handle it.
That shocked you, didn’t it? Love?
No, I’m not advocating you fall in love with your boss. The kind of love you must have if you’re going to execute positive moments of truth with your boss include important components of love:
Business isn’t family. You often hear business owners or organizational leaders talk about how “we’re all family here.” Unless it’s family owned business filled with relatives…it’s simply not true!
You don’t have to be family to love. If more organizations would embrace love in the workplace they’d realize there’s a new level of performance in most people. The missing ingredient in some organizations is safety and security. Those are important aspects of love. How does that relate to your moments of truth with the boss though?
Does the boss feel safe and secure with you? If not, you’re in trouble. Maybe not today, but eventually.
Does the boss trust you? Ditto.
Does the boss feel respected by you? Again, ditto.
Like it or not, you must manage your relationship with the boss. You’ll put your career at risk if you avoid putting in the effort to do that.
Putting your boss on edge is unprofitable. Making your boss comfortable and safe is invaluable.
Bob Dylan has a song that I’m always reminded of whenever I talk about service and serving, “You gotta serve somebody.” He was singing of a new found religious conviction, but the message still applies. We’ve all gotta serve somebody and it’s critical that we understand who we’re serving. Your boss is a professional priority. You must serve your boss and that means making sure you incorporate those love components into your service. Your boss, no matter how analytical or measured, is still a person with feelings and perceptions. How you interact and perform will influence both of those with your boss. Nothing else matters more to your career because the people who have authority over us can have the biggest impact on our career. Besides, if you can please the people who have authority over you, then you’re well on your way to heightened performance in serving your direct reports.
Moments of truth happen all the time. They’re not necessarily all the planned events of our working life. They’re often spontaneous and unpredicted.
Like the dirty tray tables they’re often seemingly quite small. Insignificant even. Or so we think. Pay close attention and be keenly aware of how you are being perceived. Know why people, especially your boss, have their viewpoint. Manage your work and your reputation by taking better command of your moments of truth with your boss.