Throw the Wrench

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

It was the opening line of the email that caught my attention.

I don’t want to throw a wrench in this, but…

The accepted definition of this phrase or idiom “Throwing a Wrench into the Works” means to damage or change (something) in a way that ruins it or prevents it from working properly.

But that is not what was happening here.

They were not trying to damage or ruin the project.

Their wrench was an idea to improve the situation.

But sometimes the project is already moving forward, and we are afraid of Wrenches causing delay or disruption.

Sometimes we have invested in a strategy or direction, and we are afraid of Wrenches causing us to move or admit we may have to accept a sunk cost.

Sometimes the world has changed from when we started the initiative, and we are afraid of Wrenches causing us to start over and change course.

How about a new definition of what it means to Throw the Wrench.

To Throw the Wrench is to speak up and offer an alternative.

To Throw the Wrench is to express your reservation or concerns.

To Throw the Wrench is to help an organization from making a mistake (or further mistakes).

Maybe more than ever, we need you to Throw the Wrench.

As organizations, we need to listen to, learn from, foster, and encourage the Wrench Throwers.

We need the Wrench Throwers to speak up, offer ideas and alternatives, and let us know before we make large mistakes.

One idea to foster the kind of organization that encourages people to Throw that Wrench is to create a contest for the best Wrench Throw. How about prizes and a celebration of speaking up and offering alternatives.

My closing advice to all of you: Throw the Wrench.

Customer Service Coaching and the Salad

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(Image Courtesy of http://thehealthyfoodie.com)

While eating at a restaurant while traveling, an interesting customer service interaction unfolded that I could not ignore. As the three people at the adjacent table received their food, I noticed one of them make a face and explain to the staff that something was in the salad. Something that should not be in a salad.

The plate was removed, and the other two people shared their food until a replacement meal arrived. You couldn’t help but notice a pretty thorough examination of the second salad. It was declared clean, and the meal continued.

I gave my salad a close look when it arrived as well.

Although the meal continued, you could not help but notice how this interaction somehow tainted what would normally be a pleasant lunch. Whatever topics that would have filled their time together, had been replaced by a salad and service.

The bill arrived. Redness appeared on faces and necks. Conversation intensity increased.

I could only guess that the salad remained on the bill, and no gesture was made to make up for the prior issue. One of them pulled out their credit card and placed it down with the bill.

I got up and walked over.

“Sorry to bother you, but customer service is an interest of mine, talk to you for a minute?”

They agreed, but were still a little stunned/agitated by the whole lunch interaction. I explained that I witnessed and was aware of what had transpired.

“What is really upsetting is not that the salad remained on the bill, it was the indifferent attitude of the staff. We explained what happened, and instead of apologizing, they simply said ‘ok’ and took the salad away.”

I encouraged them to speak up. Talk to the manager or someone to explain what happened. Typically, a business only hears from 4 percent of their dissatisfied customers. That means for every 100 times you drop the ball, only 4 people will tell you.

Never assume that the absence of complaints equates to satisfaction.

That doesn’t mean your customers are not telling someone. Despite not talking to you, those same dissatisfied customers will tell 8 to 10 other people about their interaction, and some will tell up to 20. With social media, now they can tell hundreds or thousands of people.

They spoke up. I watched a manager come over to talk to them, and a new bill arrived. Their tone, and demeanor changed. They smiled, and prepared to leave.

“We told them that we needed to talk about the bill and the lunch experience, now that we had been coached on customer service.”

We laughed and shook hands as they left.

Things will go wrong with your customers. You will make a mistake, or fail especially when things are hectic or busy. How you treat you customers when you make that mistake can makes all the difference.

Apologize.

Acknowledge.

Keep in mind, there may be others coaching your customers to make you better as well.

Finding Your Voice

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(Image Courtesy of Autoblog.com)

When working with a fairly large team of leaders one dominant trait was clear. This team drove hard for results, and wanted to accomplish numerous projects and tasks. The intensity manifested itself during their meetings. In between numerous cross-conversations and interruptions, ideas were discussed, challenged, and hashed out.

If you had an idea, you had to defend it.

If you had a suggestion, you had to sell it.

If you had an objection, you had to voice it.

But, there were other members of this team. Team members who did not share the same dominant drive. In meetings, these team members remained silent. They had no voice at the table.

One of the “silent ones” pulled me aside after the session. We talked about finding their voice amongst the team and the challenges associated with speaking up.

“Your voice is important on this team, and you need to find ways to speak up, especially if you have concerns.”

“That is great for you to say, but I think this team just views me as a speed bump on their road to progress.”

After a few moments of stunned silence, a plan developed. We agreed that during the next meeting, this “silent one” would find their voice, stand up, and speak (shout) out the following statement:

“Speed bumps save lives!”

And they did.

After the initial disruption, a brief explanation, and a few laughs, the dominant team members stopped and listened. The “silent one” found their voice, and offered their insight into the project.

Months later, the team dynamic has shifted. More members have found their voices, and the dominant ones are learning to slow down, listen, and even occasionally ask:

“Are there any speed bumps we should know about?”

Finding your voice, in your organization, meeting, or workplace may require a bold step, but being heard is well worth the effort.