Love is the running towards

How do you find trusted helpers in an age of transactional extraction?

Geoff Wilson

I’m going to write this one with some trepidation because, in the words of Marcus Aurelius (the character in the movie Gladiator, not the actual historical figure):

“There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish… it was so fragile.”

My family and I recently took a vacation that included a few days in London (It’s this city in England, but I digress). As a complete matter of happenstance, we walked past what I believe to be the only fire station in London that sports a massive banner that reads “love is the running towards.”

A picture of it is featured at the top of this post.

In our practice we talk openly and ernestly about “running to fire.”  We ask ourselves whether we are actually working on the stuff that matters.  Stuff that is urgent.  At times, stuff that looks little but is actually the big.  All of this is stuff that we, perhaps, weren’t engaged to work on first.  It’s fire.  And, we run towards it.

Love is the running towards.

And, so what is it that I’m writing on?  It’s a particular professional services model that is built not on transactions, hours, days, weeks or “bodies deployed,” but on help.  True, genuine, trusted help.

Wilson Growth Partners LLC has executed well over 100 engagements over the years.  Those engagements have ranged from preparing and executing single-day workshops to multi-year transformational execution engagements.

Like snowflakes, no single engagement is like the others.

But one thing is for certain:  Engagements where we work in concert with our client leaders dynamically to improve performance, execution, and ultimately results are the ones where we run toward fire.

Sure, it’s sexy and neat to work on strategy-setting topics.  Yes, it’s easy to recruit, retain, excite, and promote our own people with stories of top management strategy and “working for the CEO.”

But, you know what?

We are at our best when we do that and we identify and execute on the things that truly allow progress to happen.

This might mean running that tactical meeting several times a week to ensure there is no ambiguity of purpose. It might mean helping interview and hire that person who can and should take over a mission area our team is covering currently. It could mean pausing the high falutin market strategy to priortize a sales funnel with the sales team.

And, it can mean grinding away on change management even as we shelve our impeccable strategic planning capabilities.

Above all it means having the humility to step away from the scope of an engagement (or…dare I say not even having an engagement at all) and helping.  

That’s the running towards.

That’s the model we have worked to cultivate with clients, and the one we deploy where I would say our work is the most trusted.

Sure, sure, we at WGP are a for-profit enterprise and have to ensure that we are sustaining ourselves.  That cannot be forgotten and on some level will always create tension between the value we provide and the value we receive.

But the business can never be bigger than the mission.  Love is the running towards.

That tension can and is constantly secondary to the tension between the actions we take alongside our partners and clients and the real-world litmus test of “are we helping?”

Love is the running towards.  I would like to thank the professionals in and around the London Fire Brigade for crystalizing that thought for me as I reflect on our own practice after all these years.

We live in an age where data, analysis, and culture allow every bit of value to be sliced, diced, allocated and captured.  Do a little bit of study on how Disney has taken the capture of consumer surplus to a maddening level in its theme parks and you’ll see a great example of this. Observe your average consulting or law firm constructing proposals or jealously allocating time only to things that are “paid” and you’ll see it.

But maybe there’s still room for a model built on help…a model built on finding the things that matter and addressing them with aplomb. A model built on…Love.

I wish I could end this post with a massive call to action for readers to “reach out if you need help.” But I can’t, because we have so much love and so many fires that capacity doesn’t allow it. This blog and its hundreds of posts over the years haven’t really been about marketing WGP.  They have been about a better way.  So, what I can say is this: If you aren’t experiencing such a model in your professional services experience, a better way exists. Go look for it.

I hope that in writing on this topic I haven’t cheapened the very real and daily focus on it in all that we do at WGP.  A model built on loving help is fragile…Just like the dream of Rome was.

What do you think?  Is it possible to express love through a model of service?  We think so.

Framing our AI approach: Establishing professional policies

What does a comprehensive yet digestible AI policy look like for a professional services firm?

Geoff Wilson

I’m going to continue this article with the same starting statement I will use with all AI articles:  I’m still learning. We all are.

The question I and our team at WGP have been wrestling with is this:  Now that Generative AI (GAI) is in the popular lexicon and is beginning to permeate academia and some workplaces, what is an effective and flexible policy statement that informs our own practices around it?

My current answer is basically four points.  And, I would appreciate any reactions or feedback on how these policies might satisfy you as an executive or your customers if you are in similar professional services.  I’m also genuinely curious to understand what this leaves out.

Our emerging AI policy for WGP is encompassed in the following four policy points:

  • Be Human-Centered – Because no generative artificial intelligence will replace understanding and judgment required when navigating organizations, cultures, and individual relationships; we will always have a human-in-the-loop when it comes to content, recommendations, and basic communications (yes, even automated emails, which we will never use). This means our people must be expert at understanding what AI can and cannot do.


  • Be Secure – Generative AI will have the potential to “see” very complex data associations through even basic user provided data.  No proprietary data will be shared with generative AI platforms unless those platforms are trusted and certified as proprietary, walled, or otherwise data-safe. Otherwise, if we are feeding a GAI platform data or querying a GAI platform, we should treat those actions as if they were posted to social media.


  • Be Transparent – Use of AI as a force multiplier is quite possibly a general good. However, because it is not yet clear that generative AI platforms are reliable as to background facts, we will disclose when we use such tools to generate any content in a given document.  This communicates the risks associated with acceptance of such output, and it prevents our professionals from misrepresenting their own capabilities and work behind an AI shield.


  • Be Ethical – Every deployment of complex technology has ethical use questions.  We must remain independent in our recommendations on our and our clients’ use of AI in general as to its benefits, its risks, and its overall impact on society.  We will not recommend uses that, in our judgment, create net-negative impact when private and public benefits and costs are considered.

I will expand on these topics and why they are important in a later post.

I will reiterate that I am a learner in this space…it’s just too critical not to comment on.  I would be curious your reaction here.  What does this policy set leave out?

Framing our AI approach: The ethical conundrum

In a dog-eat-dog world, it’s important to know when you are the dog.

Geoff Wilson

I’m going to write this one with the starting statement that I think all articles on Artificial Intelligence should begin with:  I’m still learning.

Much is written about the disruption that is happening right at this moment due to AI and the quickening pace of AI development in everyday life.  A recent Forbes poll shows that 97% of CEOs and key decision-makers see AI playing a large role in their future operations.  And, if I’m really blunt: I don’t think 97% of CEOs and key decision-makers even know the scope of what AI is today or could do in the near future.

The implications are large and broad and the ignorance is real.  So, with that said, I have a distinct thought that we are going to be starved for ethical frameworks to manage through the emergence of AI.

This will be true a the macro level, where nation-states and overall political ideologies are going to wrestle with how to assimilate and regulate what’s coming (which for all intents and purposes looks to be an AGI–Artificial General Intelligence–that is far and beyond anything currently contemplated); and it will be true at the micro level where companies, households, and even individuals will have to re-orient to a world that can be engineered in the blink of and eye toward some exceedingly negative outcomes.

I liken the world we are entering to the late 1800’s and the emergence of industrial monopolists and trusts. Some of the builders of our modern world were in many ways economic predators who captured power and wealth by pillaging livelihoods and social structures–even if unknowingly.  Regulatory frameworks had to catch up.  Ethical frameworks had to catch up.  And the benefit the world had “back then” was that the world generally moved at the pace of the telegraph and the locomotive.

We are emerging into a world that not only has a similar lack of readiness in our regulatory and ethical frameworks, but that also moves at light speed. 

In the annals of competition, one of the more glaringly instructive contests was the race to the South Pole undertaken between dueling expeditions led by Robert Falcon Scott (the “Terra Nova” Expedition) and Roald Amundsen (the “South Pole” expedition) in the early 1910’s.  Rather than recount the full story here, I’ll merely offer an anecdote.

Among the competing choices made by Scott and Amundsen were different choices of transportation. Scott famously attempted to deploy “motor sledges” (essentially early snow tractors) and horses.  Amundsen went with dogs.  The choice seems mundane at first, but the implications are astounding.

First of all, after the motor sledges failed Scott as internal combustion engines were prone to do in the early 1900’s, he became dependent on horses, which were not well adapted to the cold (horses sweat when working…sweat freezes).  Not only that, but the Scott expedition had to carry food for the horses, which was heavy.  Add to that the human attraction for noble horses, and its accompanying emotional burden felt by the men not willing to let their horses suffer, and you end up with a real logistical and emotional (dare I say ethical) conundrum.  Scott’s expedition ended up “man-hauling” their sleds and supplies hundreds of miles to the pole, and even farther back–and yes, this is as terrible as it sounds.  In the end, all of the members of the team who reached the South Pole starved and died.

Charming story, right?

Amundsen’s expedition did something entirely different.  They chose skis for the men, and dogs to tow their sleds. And, they used the fact that dogs are one type of animal not revulsed by cannibalism. In other words, when the going got tough, Amundsen fed his dogs to his dogs.  He sacrificed the weaker animals for the survival of the stronger ones and their masters. For most of us, this strategy sounds gruesome.  It was also an ingenious solution to a massive logistical challenge. Amundsen’s expedition skied and sledded to the Pole–arriving weeks ahead of Scott– then returned without loss of life or even relative difficulty.

Amundsen won because this and many other of his choices–no matter what you think of the stomach they took–ultimately were better that Scott’s.

Now, why do I bring up this anecdote in framing up the ethical conundrum we face in our march toward AGI?

It’s because of this:  At this moment, we view choices that require strong stomachs with some admiration, and even when we do not, we admire those who make such choices as “impressive” humans.  John D. Rockefeller made many, many predatory decisions in building Standard Oil into possibly the largest store of wealth in the world during the 1800’s.  He was vilified by some, and admired by others.

Without doubt, though, he was the “Amundsen” of the story.  He was the winning master who pitted dog against dog. We lionize JDR for his wealth and philanthropy, even today.

In the future, though, we have real reason to fear that the “master”–the Amundsens of future competitive arenas–will be non-human.  And that, my friends, means we stand a good chance of being merely the dogs.

In a dog-eat-dog world, it’s important to know when you are the dog and not the master.

I was recommended Lex Fridman’s podcast from April (#371) with Max Tegmark.  Tegmark is a physicist and AI researcher at MIT who is decidedly negative on the likely outcomes of the AI revolution. And, he has many compelling views. One that stuck with me is that, in his view the first mass deployment of AI into the human world has been within the social media space…and we humans have lost that battle in spades.

In other words, when it came to deploying AI into social media, AI models keyed in on our human habits of tribalism, sectionalism, and hatred; and they had us eat each other alive.  All of this was ostensibly because the AI was “only” looking for a way to increase “engagement” on silly social media sites.

So what happens when an AI is not only making marketing and entertainment decisions (some of which have already led to massive social dislocation, strife, suicide and death), but also decisions on transportation, health, governance, corporate strategy, and social policy?  What happens when humans are no longer the Amundsen?

I’ll continue this line of thinking.  I firmly believe we will need not only fantastically facile management of how and when to deploy AI–which will change our world further than it has already–but also exceptional judgment and guidance on why we deploy it and how we can test and refine it to avoid unintended consequences.

This will be true for executives, and it will be true in spades for political and social leaders whose power is, by definition, even less regulated than business executive power.

Watch this space for more, and please…share your comments.

I will reiterate that I am a learner in this space…it’s just too critical not to comment on.  Now it’s your turn…what do you think about the ethical implications of AI deployment?

You are what you eat, whether you like it or not.

Your sources of revenue (and income) say plenty…mind them closely.

Geoff Wilson

 The New York Times released an article this week on McKinsey’s work with authoritarian and otherwise dangerous regimes across the world.  The article raises some questions on McKinsey’s choices on whom to serve and how such choices align with McKinsey’s Firm values.  There have been further revelations even today that McKinsey has a partner under arrest in the Saudi kingdom (a partner who was “acquired” by the firm through a company transaction, and so not one who was “vetted” up through the ranks, but a partner nonetheless).

While the Times article is less than flattering to McKinsey–a firm that has faced an unusual number of embarrassing press items recently– it deals in very gray areas around client service.  How does a global firm make choices on which governments to serve (or serve under) and not serve?  How does a firm decide on engagement or disengagement as a statement of its values?

In short, the article raises the most basic of questions: How do our values relate to our income?

This question goes far beyond McKinsey (a firm that I admittedly still have a very strong positive feeling for)…it goes right to the very soul of all of our work.  In the business world, your professional profile is highly correlated with how you earn your income.

You are what you eat.

Do you earn your income by creating new ways for authoritarian governments to impose their will on their populations?  That makes you an accessory to oppression.

Do you earn your income by depending on a steady stream of working poor people to borrow/buy/rent from you?  That makes you dependent on the existence of the working poor.

Do you earn your income by creating technological addiction in order to sell more ad space?  That makes you dependent on addicts.

Do you earn your income by serving tyrannical or amoral leaders who use people as objects?  That makes you his or her enabler in their career.

These aren’t hard concepts to chew on as we get ready to dive into the new year:  Do the things you get paid to do–in the main–produce more good in the world, or not? Do your sources of revenue contribute to a better society or not?

McKinsey’s case is not cut and dried–few are in the business world–and the New York Times was sensational bordering on unprofessional in its insinuations.  Still, it isn’t a large leap to assume that serving authoritarians is enabling them. It is also not okay to blame such client service choices on “growth” or “influence.” This is especially true when you consider that McKinsey is a firm whose iconic leader examined this very vein of thinking many years ago.  As I have written before, Marvin Bower wrote to the McKinsey partnership on how income and growth could lead to poor client choices.  He said:

“If an individual consultant has
to make a professional decision
on the spot and he has too many
obligations, I worry that he is
likely to make a decision to attract
a client who shouldn’t be

So…What is a client who shouldn’t be attracted to you?  What is a source of income that isn’t worth the hit to your integrity?

To me, and in my firm, it’s basic: Does the client or source of income depend on or produce states of the world that I would not sleep well at night knowing that I have proliferated? Admittedly, it’s a personal test…but I have given hints as to my own limits above.

As we ponder the new year, let’s ponder the fruits of our labors, and know that we are what we eat.

Now it’s your turn, share a bit about how you match purpose, values, and income.  What do you think?  



Why ghosting may be the most unforgivable professional sin

There are professional ways to end a relationship, and silent indifference is not one of them.

Geoff Wilson

I was amused (appalled?) yesterday by a trend on LinkedIn that noted how the supply/demand balance had shifted so much in talent markets that people are resorting to “ghosting” at work.

Ghosting, a dating term that means ending a relationship by suddenly and without notice ending all communications, manifests itself in the workplace by people quitting without giving notice, or not showing up on their scheduled first day of work, or no-showing for interviews.  And it’s certainly a direct reflection on any candidate’s professionalism when they stop communicating or simply don’t show up.

Which brings to mind a thought for those of us in the professional realm: Ghosting is never the right way to end things.  No matter how busy you are, how important you are, or how indifferent you are to the other person or company, it’s always professional to invest a moment of your time in achieving closure.

I spend a portion of my time, as does anyone with a firm like mine, developing relationships and ideas for service; I usually do this alongside a very busy executive who has a need for help. The process of developing ideas and investing in new relationships is a significant investment of time and mind share, but it’s part of the trade.  In the years I have been doing this, four instances of ghosting stand out; these are the executives who go through the motions of scoping and idea generation, solicit a proposal, and then drop off the face of the earth. They are the cultivators of free information and free options for service. It bears saying that I am not referring to lost proposals: You win some and you lose some.  I am referring to proposals that have gone into a black hole, never to be acknowledged as residing in this universe.

Invariably, the ghosting executives wonder why people don’t enjoy working with them.  And, when there is some future outreach, there is always the “I was so busy” trope.  This usually comes from a busy executive who doesn’t stop to think that perhaps those around him who are responding to his requests are equally busy.  That excuse is chuckle-worthy.

Now, I must say that I write this as someone who values closure.  I especially value it when there has been mutual investment around a topic–no matter the context.  I once sat through a lunch discussion with the most dishonest person I ever met after a being a part of a series of negotiations with her; and I did it just to close things out–I can still taste the bile from that one.  Yeah, I’d say I enjoy closing the book…ending the discussion…getting to “yes” or “no” as the case may be.

So, why the moment on ghosting? Because life is longer than we like to admit.  You’re too busy to say “no” to that proposal, or to politely decline that next phone call, or to ensure that you have cancelled your attendance at that next interview?  Just remember that lapses in professionalism have a nasty habit of coming home to roost, and lapses that result in wasted time and lost value are among the worst. Ghosting may, in fact, be the most unforgivable professional sin.

What do you think?  Have you been ghosted in a professional setting?  


Trump: A demonstration of how executive mandates fail

Your leadership mandate fails when people start to believe it has.

Geoff Wilson

“I did nothing wrong.” So many failed executives begin there to explain unsuccessful stints as leaders. But I’m here to tell you that it’s the appearance of failure that precedes executive failure, not actual failure.

President Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort’s home was raided by the FBI this week in ongoing investigations of whether the Trump campaign had improper contacts with Russia. This follows months upon months of speculation about improprieties involving Russia.

The cynics and opposition already believe Trump is unethical. Trump’s defenders claim there isn’t evidence of the accused impropriety, and that extreme political attacks from the opposition are leading to mass insinuation regarding collusion with Russia.

But when the campaign chair is raided by the FBI, even the defenders have to pause and think. It looks like the apolitical investigators believe Trump’s closest advisors can’t be trusted to be forthcoming. And that is where an executive’s mandate gets crushed. Trump’s defenders will, perhaps rightly, say that no wrongdoing was done. And they miss the point. Because it’s the appearance of impropriety that destroys your mandate, eventually.

If you’re an executive, you don’t have to engage in acts of conspiracy to defraud your shareholders to be removed from office for conspiring to defraud your shareholders. And you don’t have to sleep with your subordinate to be removed for inappropriate workplace relationships. You just need enough people to believe that the accusations are possible.

If people believe an accusation is possible, you’ve already lost. And when numbers and facts start to back it up, it becomes easier to believe. How many times did you inappropriately round those numbers in that financial report? How often did you take overnight trips alone with that one subordinate? How many meetings did your organization have with Russian organizations. These elements of appearance quickly become perceived evidence of impropriety.

So what?

You want to keep your mandate? Appear and act like you should.

Here is one of the most useful aphorisms in life and work: We judge ourselves on our intentions, and we judge others on their actions. Remember that you’re being judged on your actions—even the appearance of your actions—no matter your intentions (or even the private facts).

What do you think?  

Everybody wants to be a rock star

You gotta love the process to be great, in management or any field.

Geoff Wilson

You know something funny? Pretty much everybody wants to be a rock star. No, I don’t literally mean a rock-‘n’-roll celebrity with long hair, tattoos, piercings, and leather pants. I mean a figurative rock star nailing every performance at whatever they do.

But you know something else? Very few people want—no, like—to do what it takes to get there. And therein lies the rub of achieving success in just about any field. It can be boiled down to a single phrase: You have to love the process of achieving greatness to have the best chance of becoming great.

That means that no matter how much you’d love to be Eddie Van Halen on the guitar, if you don’t love or at least appreciate the pain of cracked and bleeding fingers that comes from countless hours of practicing new licks, you probably won’t get there. Ever.

Show me someone great at something, anything, and I’ll show you someone who has honed their craft through the process of becoming great. The process is typically exhausting, frustrating, painful, and tedious. If it weren’t, everyone would doggedly pursue greatness rather than passively wish for it.

Great speaker? Many hours of practice—probably in their closet or in front of the mirror, but still. Great strategist? Yep, lots of practice—possibly by observing a magnificent depth of strategic patterns and behaviors. Great mechanic? Plenty of practice, as well as burns, cuts, and sore muscles. Great typist? Lots. Of. Tedious. Typing.

Sure, the great ones are often gifted. But, most of the time, they love the process, too. They love the bloody fingers, skinned knuckles, and late nights in front of a spreadsheet. They crave the smell of engine exhaust or sweaty locker rooms.

These people relish the act of building greatness. They may love it even more than being great.

One cautionary note: I’m not talking about someone who has a great position. That’s totally different. There are people with great titles and positions, and then there are great professionals. They aren’t always the same. After enough years, you start to realize that.

So, you want to be a rock star? Find a stage where you enjoy the process of building toward greatness. If you never liked practice, you were probably in the wrong field. The great ones love the grind.

What do you think?


Take the right strategic steps to confront mistakes at minimal cost

Facing our managerial miscues is painful. Properly rectifying missteps is paramount.

Geoff Wilson

“That’s too much savings!” The manager looked at the spreadsheet that showed he had been overspending by more than 50 percent on a particular service under a sweetheart deal he thought he had. He was clearly mortified by what the math displayed. “Too much savings” meant a long history of too much spending, and he was the one responsible.

The phrase resonates to this day. A team member of mine who was on the aforementioned project alongside me still occasionally drops me the question via text or email: “Are you still getting too much savings these days?” It’s a delightful “How ya doin’?” But that episode, while humorous to consider in isolation, actually illustrates a good lesson about confronting reality as business leaders.

At some point, we all must face the unpleasant fact that we’ve made mistakes. We’ve hired the wrong people, bought and sold at ill-timed prices, or invested in the wrong markets. It happens to every one of us who actually make decisions. We try to be perfect, but we’re simply not.

My overspending manager, however, compounded his imperfection by trying to sidestep the inevitable pain of confronting a mistake. He popped the infamous “too much savings” comment not to state that we were going to cut costs too far, but rather to convey “I can’t give this to my boss because it will show I’ve made a big mistake.”

And that’s the problem. Analyzing our decisions sometimes reveals that we’ve made bad ones. And correcting poor decisions often means facing the proverbial music—the dirge of our defeat. We must admit it and move forward. And that’s hard.

If we examine a bad investment we’ve made and choose not to write it off but to instead double down on it because, well, doing the right thing would be too painful, we’ve ultimately determined that doing the right thing is wrong because of the optics or our insecure need to save face. Such decisions may be human nature, but they’re also cowardly, selfish, and detrimental to personal and organizational growth.

If you find yourself in a situation where the answer is so right that it’s wrong, ask yourself why. The correct strategic shift often comes with a cost, but the price of inaction is typically not less than your own job.

After all, if you won’t make the right decision, the person who replaces you probably will. And he or she will look like a hero doing it.

What do you think?

United Airlines and Only Following Orders

Only following policy only hurts your business.

By now, you’ve doubtless seen the sturm und drang surrounding United Airlines’s escalation of an unreasonable passenger’s behavior to forcible police action against the passenger.

If not, here’s one link to give you some background.

United’s CEO Oscar Munoz then, and now famously, backed his employees for following the rules and doing the right thing.   He called the passenger “disruptive” and “belligerent” and emphatically stood behind his employees.

Now, a lot has already been written about how United took the most painful route to resolution with this situation (not this passenger, more on that later).  The company could have simply continued to raise the offer of compensation to passengers who would leave the plane until “somebody” felt it was worth it to leave.  Investor’s Business Daily had a decent article on this.  It’s here.  

But, that article, while precisely right, probably ignores a reality of large company “policy and procedure.”  And, I’m just guessing here.  But, what we have likely seen is the result of a company policy that prevents gate agents from offering more than “X” dollars compensation for re-accommodation.  In other words, the gate agents, in escalating this circumstance to (1) random selection of passengers and (2) calling in the police were merely “following orders” or “complying with policy.”

Having a large number of people in a large organization adhere to policy is good for business as a rule.  But it’s awful for business during a true hard case.  And, it appears that this is a true hard case.

As many of you have probably experienced in sales and retail environments, someone sticking “policy” in your face as a means to resolving customer service rarely makes you a more loyal, understanding customer.

And this is where United’s CEO got this one wrong.  Munoz has been attacked from the perspective of his communications being awful for public relations; but I’ll go so far as to say his words are probably bad for business.

What he said to his employees in an internal email was “I emphatically stand behind all of you.”

That’s an admirable statement from a CEO, and not an easy one to make in a crisis like this. But it is a callous response to the brutality of events precipitated by United’s escalation to the police.

What he should have said was probably something like “I stand behind you, but in a truly hard circumstance like the one we just experienced, you have the discretion to choose a better way.” And, he ought to ensure policy allows for it.

Now, on the passenger:  It’s quite possible that this particular passenger would have stayed on the airplane no matter what.  He appears to be a truly unreasonable fellow. At the end of his ordeal, he wasn’t dealing with flight attendants, but with the police.  When you are non-compliant with a sworn law enforcement officer, you are making your own bed.

But this situation isn’t about that guy.  That guy exists on every flight in America. Forget him. He’s a screaming lunatic who put himself and his travel plans above dozens of other people’s (before he was forcibly removed, then walked back on the plane).  That’s true no matter whether he was “technically” right just as it’s true that Oscar Munoz’s comments were wrong even if “technically” right.

This is about the other dozens of passengers, at least one of whom might have left for a higher price. I’m always surprised when we fail to look at circumstances like this one and forget that there wasn’t just one option available to United…there were dozens of other options, many of whom were probably closer to leaving than the guy who ultimately was dragged off the flight.  People have already forgotten that the unruly passenger wasn’t the only one selected against his will.

There were three others.

The other three left peacfully, probably with some compensation and a hotel room for the night (and no doubt with a bad taste in their mouth about United).  Sure, that may make them “sheep” with no respect for their “rights,” but it left them with choices, too.

While responsibility for the escalation resides with United and “policy,” I think it’s fair to say to United employees that they will encounter another jerk in the future.  Their option is to blacklist that jerk from ever flying United again if he chooses to take this flight at this time against the company’s wishes and policy, and select another passenger.

It’s the jerk’s choice at that point.

So, bad things all around.  The CEO’s “right” but callous focus on company policy is a bad thing for business.  The passenger’s “right” but idiotic stand ultimately got him entangled with the police.

Sometimes, a little discretion is all it takes.  Only following policy only hurts business.

What do you think?



Mongolian Beef and the Moment of Truth

We all face moments of truth.  What do yours reveal about you?


This past Friday evening–at the end of what was a fantastic week–I decided to drop in on a local Chinese food restaurant for takeout before heading home to my family.

It was a regular drop in on a business I hadn’t been to in probably four months.  I placed a “robust” order to feed our family of 6, and then walked outside the restaurant to talk on the phone while my order was prepared.

When I walked back in, one earphone in my ear and the other dangling so that I could pick up my two sackfuls of Chinese goodness, the cook and proprietor of the restaurant pointed to the sacks and said “I made you a Mongolian Beef to make up for the one I missed last time.”

I was astounded.

“Last time,” as I noted above, had to have been four months ago.  I vaguely remembered, only after the cook pointed it out, that I had indeed arrived home one Mongolian Beef short of my full order on that trip.  I remember calling briefly and letting the shop know (without much fanfare…literally just “hey, wanted you to know we were short on this one…no big deal.”).

And the cook remembered better than me.

He, no doubt, had a moment of truth where his customer walked in, didn’t say a word about a past service miss, placed a big order, and then waited.  The moment of truth was that moment when he faced the choice of either to address a prior miss that hadn’t been remembered by the customer, or to just go with the flow and ignore it–banking on the customer’s ignorance.

On moments of truth

There’s a reality in customer service–all parts of business and life, really.  It’s that we all face moments of truth.  Moments of truth are moments that force us to reveal–at the very least to ourselves–who we really are.

It may be that moment when you ought to deliver hard feedback to a client but decide not to because it’s too, well, hard.

It may be that moment when you return that overpayment to your customer like it’s a hot potato because you are not about keeping your customers’ money.

And, yes, it may be that moment when you remember a customer issue from four months ago and go the extra mile to mitigate it when the chance, finally, arises again.

We all have moments of truth in our lives. Moments of truth are moments of truth because we quite often have discretion about which way we go.

We can choose.

We can hide from the truth and reveal that we are, in fact, cowardly (like in my feedback example above).  Or, we can face the music and see where it takes us.

The question we all should consider is this:  When faced with my moment of truth, what will it reveal about me?

We should all hope for the revelation of strength of character in such moments.

What do you think?