Leading On Business: It’s What You Do, Not What You Say You Do

“We provide superior customer service.”

“We train all our employees.”

“We listen.”


Words are cheap. And with some of the customer (dis)service I’ve encountered lately, I would classify each of those statements patently false by those who were proudly preaching them to me.

You see, I work as a…well, what the heck am I?

Back in the day when there wasn’t a title for it, I could call myself a Business Coach. There were few of us business coaches, and people understood clearly what it meant. But even when I was labeled a Business Coach, there was (and is) so much more to what I do (for you), and how I work.

It comes from years as an athletic coach, working with World class and Olympic athletes.

You see, when you’re an athletic coach, you’re working with so much more than the sport. You’re working with the human spirit, mind, body and soul. You’re nurturing and supporting someone to achieve their dreams. You’re as much inside their head as in the arena. You’re invested in them and their success. You support them, feel for them, work with them, encourage, provide perspective and constructive feedback. You train them.

You don’t just say, “Well, there’s the equipment. The policies and rules are all listed in this 5000 page athlete manual. Knock yourself out.”

But I see businesses do this EVERY DAY. They hire someone, give them a royal one-day training (that usually includes identifying where the washroom and lunch room are, not necessarily in that order), leave them with an Employee Policies and Procedures manual written as if you’re either a Mensa member or kindergarten drop-out (and which probably weighs more than the employee him/herself) and end on a cheery “if you need anything…” (with the undercurrent being…don’t call on me)

In a grocery store the other day, I passed a coupon to the cashier before she started ringing things up (and if you know me at all, I’m NOT a coupon kinda’ gal. I’ve used few in my lifetime, but have learned through watching others that you ALWAYS give the coupon before the transaction begins, or heaven help you). With rude abruptness and a flick of her hand in my direction, she said: “I don’t want that NOW.”

As she started to ring my items through, one item wouldn’t scan. Short of swearing out loud, she made her displeasure at my packaged turkey barcode known, to all within earshot.

I’d already had a tad of a tough day, and this just was the proverbial straw. In a calm voice, I simply said: “Just forget it. There’s a line-up behind me, and I can get it another time.”

At which time she harrumphed, called over to what I can only imagine was her supervisor and in loud, disgruntled voice said: “This thing won’t scan.”

Now, you must realize she wasn’t worried about my inconvenience. She was solely focused on hers. She was ticked off at my package of turkey, and she was ticked off because I tried to give her a coupon at an inappropriate time. (never mind all the jawing back and forth among the cashiers as this little scenario was unfolding, commiserating about how the “darn thing never works”, “how can they expect me to do my job” and yadayada)

I could have been mad.

I could have called for a manager.

But I just smiled at the absurdity of it all.

This was at a place that touts their “customer service”. They SAY they train their employees, but they probably train them on the technical/tactical aspects.

What about what I call “the space between the lines”?

All the demeanour, body language, role-playing scenarios, what-if scenarios, appropriate responses and empowerment to solve someone’s problem. All the things sorely lacking in much of what passes off as “employee training”.

Has common courtesy, smiles, solutions-based behaviour and understanding gone the way of the dinosaur?

What many employees fail to realize is this: they’re not doing the customer a favour by serving them. The customer is doing the business a favour by buying from them.

When we get employees to think like owners…to act in the way they themselves would like to be treated…to empower them to make good decisions, and to reward and recognize the behaviour we want, we get what we want. And I don’t care if that’s someone who’s doing what might be considered rote work or inventing the next eureka discovery.

It’s about service.

It’s about being of service.

It’s about solving someone’s problem, reducing their pain or enhancing their pleasure.

And it’s not difficult.

Why are so many businesses failing at this?


This post has been republished with permission from Kaarina Dillabough

Kaarina Dillabough

Kaarina Dillabough

Business Life Coach at Decide2Do
Kaarina is a business/life coach living in Ontario. For over 25 years her high-voltage energy, expertise and experience has inspired those she has worked with to reach beyond their grasp, to attain great things in business and in life. A former Olympic sports colour commentator and coach, Kaarina parlayed her coaching skills from the gym floor to the boardroom, working with business owners to improve their profitability and prosperity. In doing so, she has seen people grow both personally and professionally. Kaarina is known as an inspiring motivational speaker in areas such as branding, marketing, business growth strategies, and personal growth and prosperity. She is a passionate, seasoned coach and accountability partner with a proven track record, who loves nothing more than helping people achieve their goals in business and in life.
Kaarina Dillabough
Kaarina Dillabough



Comments are closed.