This past week, I was facilitating some leadership sessions at the Donald Gordon Conference Centre in Kingston, Ontario. Leaders from across the country, and sometimes internationally, arrive for one week to learn about Leadership and themselves in a very filled and fulfilling week’s worth of activities. I stayed with them at the conference centre, enjoying the food and guest rooms.
The work that I do there is two-fold. First of all, I help leaders understand the results of their 360 assessments that they ask their peers, direct reports and supervisors to complete for their participation in the leadership week. Secondly, I work with small teams of leaders, usually 4 or 5 individuals, as they exercise and practice some specific leadership coaching skills. It is always a great week, put on by the Queen’s Executive Development Centre, but this isn’t a blurb for them; it’s a blurb about the learning that takes place when you aren’t trying to learn.
When I got to the end of my team meetings, we debriefed the activities and some of the leadership lessons. We had a meaningful discussion about how leaders relate to their direct reports, how much time it takes to coach and develop others, the role of feelings in the workplace, and the importance of open-ended questions, when one of the team participants piped up, “But do you know what I really learned here? I learned about customer service.”And then the stories started coming out about the great service that everyone had received at the DGCC: the fabulous turn-down service (with a chocolate, or perhaps a rose, or perhaps some blueberries for you as well), the magical ability of the staff to produce anything you needed (from Kleenex to headache medication to taxi chits to local tourism maps), and the individual care that came across clearly from each and every staff and support member.
In a personal example, the evening before I was to check out and catch an early morning flight out of Kingston, I asked at the front desk what time breakfast was served the next morning. I was told it was starting at 7am. I off-handedly mentioned, “Oh well then I’ll be leaving too early for breakfast”, thinking about where I might grab a muffin along the way to the airport. The front desk clerk said, “Oh well then we’ll make sure to have something for you to take with you”, and picked up the phone to make arrangements. The next morning, at 6:15am, I had a little bento box with two pieces of fruit, two small danishes, a mini-muffin, four strips of bacon, a bagel, cream cheese, honey and two different tea bags. Needless to say, I shared with people at the airport! But what exceptional service!
Here is my take-away: the participants were there to learn about leadership, sit in classes, interact with their teams and participate in activities. They weren’t there to learn about customer service, and yet they did – the meta-interaction became just as important, and maybe more so, than the primary purpose for being there.
Your clients are in business with you to make use of your skills and talents. They want deliverables from you – just as those participants wanted learning from the workshops. But those participants came away with more that was valuable and unexpected. When your clients walk away from an interaction with you, what do they get that is valuable and unexpected?
Lisa Sansom is the Founder of LVS Consulting. A certified coach and positive psychology practitioner, Lisa helps businesses, teams and individuals be at their best. For more information, please visit
LVS Consulting or email Lisa directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.