Leadership Stories: Blind Spots

Many Lessons Come from Experiences Out of Our Normal Experience

From time to time, I go to a Waffle House for breakfast. It’s fast. It’s dependable. It’s a friendly place. It’s a place where the food is fresh. It’s not a gourmet restaurant. It’s a practical kind of place. In and out – quick and easy – good for less money – friendly and attentive atmosphere.

I love sitting at the counter and watching the cook crack the eggs with just one hand, cook the eggs in a stainless pan without sticking, and turning out the eggs perfectly on the plate with grits and toast – presentation (ta-da!).

Well, last week, I dropped in with only a narrow window for a late breakfast (they serve the same breakfast 24 hours every day, if you want it). Instead of the usual three or four people behind the counter, there were 10 people there. There evidently was only one person who was skilled (maybe two) and the others were in training for the new restaurant to be opened soon in town.

There was nobody managing traffic behind the counter, and there was very little attention to the customers. This is quite a departure from the normal attentiveness – greeting each person when the enter (many times by name), pouring and refilling the coffee cup promptly, calling out your order right after taking it from you, and putting the hot food in front of you as soon as it’s ready. None of that happened this day.

I did get my food. The food was well prepared. It took longer. I had to prompt them at every step. It took a lot longer than usual.

How does a normally high-performance team get off track? They get distracted from their main mission – customer satisfaction. This team was so focused on their own interaction, that the customers became a second priority, and not the main priority.

This is not a criticism of Waffle House. This is not a criticism of the trainer. This is simply an observation of how a high-performance team gets off track by losing focus on the main objective.

Eastman Kodak owned the imaging business, but became blind to the competition. Now they are out of that business and trying to stay alive.

The Swiss watch industry owned the high-quality watch business in the world. They laughed at quartz technology. They lost their dominance.

IBM considered the PC insignificant. They could have had control of this market, but considered it not worthy.

There are many examples of leadership losing focus on what’s important.

Take time to consider what’s really important in your work and in your life. Be sure to connect with a coach or mastermind group that can help you discover your blind spots.

Be sure to listen to the feedback. There may be a message that will change your business or your life.

Listening is a leadership skill that is underutilized.

How will you listen differently today?

Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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(c) 2012 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.