My wife Char’s gift is hospitality. Entertaining fifteen people for supper is a pleasure.  During our early years, we couldn’t afford a real dining room table. With my very limited carpentry skills, we used a square slab of plywood with four legs. We kept saving until we could afford to buy Char’s dream table.

We shopped furniture stores but no table. Our next option was a custom build. We dropped in to a local store and introduced ourselves.

Char described her Oak, single pedestal, five foot square table expandable to a rectangle seating sixteen. The table needed to be sturdy and decorative for long term consistent use. The sales guy drew a picture of what he figured Char needed, an oblong table seating 6. We call this a ‘preconceived solution to a preconceived need’.

I joined the conversation and apologized that I had forgotten to introduce Char. The sales guy looked puzzled. I continued, very politely telling him that Char went by a couple of different names. One name was Char, the second was customer and the third was profit. He listened having no idea where I was headed.

Next, I reminded him that he also had a couple of names. His given name was on his name tag and his other name was overhead. (I was prepared to tell him his third name was expendable but I didn’t need to go that far.) He apologized, pulled a new pad of paper and in five minutes drew the table that Char had described. He gave us a price, we paid and a month later Char had her dream dining room table. She is still serving unbelievable meals for sixteen people around her custom built table.

As a leader, whether you are an entrepreneur, a hospital administrator, church or furniture store guy, you need to remember who the customer or potential customer is. If you want the customer to return and bring their friends, then the experience needs to focus on their needs, not ours.

A lesson learned.  Leadership is knowing your role and working to exceed expectations.

Do you listen first and then work to exceed the expectation?

Yours in Service,
Laurie D. Kennedy
Leadership Coach