Friday, March 30, 2007

Leadership in Plane View

Great post this morning on Three Minds @ Organic. In it, there is one of the most succinct and spot on definition of leadership I've encountered:

"We got honest communication from the person in charge. Leadership is the reduction of uncertainty in organizations, and it comes from clear messages, which lead to focused actions."

We have all heard the stories of JetBlue passengers sitting on the tarmac for as much as 10 hours without explanation. The author of this post had a very different experience. In fact, he ranks the experience, having to wait nearly 100 minutes, as exceptional. Why, you ask?

Apparently, JetBlue has made some important changes in how they communicate with their customers in situations such as this. The pilot communicated the situation clearly--there would be a wait of 100 minute, the cabin would be made as comfortable as possible, the beverage service would begin, and electronic devices could be used. The pilot went so far as to offer his cell in case someone needed to make other arrangements. And, here is the best part, the pilot offered the option of de-boarding and returning at the appropriate time (unheard of in my experience.)

While this might still be a frustrating occurrence, at least the passengers understood the situation. The pilot addressed the uncertainty by providing clear choices to the passengers. Communicating clearly and providing options are necessary ways to involve your customer in the solution. If the customer is involved, the solution will be satisfactory.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Who's In your Reading List?

Sorry about the lag time. I've been busier than the proverbial one-armed paper hanger (apologies to paper hangers of any number of arms if you find this offensive.) As I've gotten back up to speed on my blog reading (my Bloglines was quite full) it occurred to me that blogs have become essential reading for me. As I am time-crunched most of the time, blogs have, in many respects, replaced much of the professional reading I used to do, although I still find time to read books and articles that are must-haves.

What I love most is that I am able to have a conversation, of sorts, with people in all kinds of environments. Some of these people are such leading figures in their fields that I would never have been able to have the opportunity to get their thoughts and insights without purchasing a book or flying to a conference. So, here are a few of the folks I'm reading (some I've mentioned before, but that just underscores how much value I find in their writings):

Seth Godin: pure genius. His thoughts extend well beyond web marketing. His leadership and creativity are evident in nearly every post.

Meredith Farkas: great blog that is library related, offering a mixture of tech, teaching, and commentary on the blogsphere.

Stan Schroeder: his FranticIndustries blog is the best tech turn-on I've found. So may great web tools are passed along that I am afraid to not read it.

Bob Sutton: I love the plain language and common sense in his thoughts on leadership.

I've talked about Kent Blumberg before. He is really dedicated to engaging his readers in a conversation. Lots of experience and wisdom there.

Joel Spolsky: mostly tech related, but a creative thinker. His thoughts extend to many areas of leadership. For instance, his company's 3 year internship program is one of the best I've heard.

Garr Reynolds: as a trainer and presenter, I find his stuff to be indispensable. His ideas about design and delivery have completely changed how I develop presentations. I'm a better presenter because he blogs.

I read alot more, but these are the ones that stand out. Please take a moment to share who you're reading and why you find them to be so compelling.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Caring is the Difference

There is a great post in the PLA blog that spells out what I think is the most crucial ingredient in running a library--or anything, really. The concept is that we must care. Very simply stated, huh?

Well, it isn't so simple in practice. While I know that we do care about making sure customers' needs are met, and we do care about being accurate and competent in what we do, we do need to do more to find out what those needs are. Many of us approach providing service with a huge set of assumptions. We know what they want and we know how to get it for them. However, customers behaviors are changing, and so are their options.

We are seeing more and more customers who are able to use the computer to find information. It will be a losing proposition trying to convince them that Googling the answer is not always the best approach. How do we bridge this perceptual gap? Customers are wanting to IM and chat questions (really looking for the 24 hour convenience model?). How do we meet this demand in a way that is attractive to them and effective for us? How do we go about developing an online community that engages customers and makes them feel like they want to spend time with us? What do we do to compete with the Amazons and Borders? We are no longer in a field of one.

Libraries have plenty of competition for the most important commodity--time. Customers will choose to spend their valuable time in places that make them feel good. They will want to return to places that get it right. In my opinion, the only way we are going to show that we care, and get it right, is to have a consistent dialog with customers to find out what they want.

What are some things you are doing to learn more about your customers? Are you approaching service in a different way? I'd love to hear about it. Maybe you're doing something that will help us all demonstrate just a little better that we do care.