Humility, Confession & Customer Service

Today's guest post is from Margaret Benefiel of Executive Soul.

Photo by Striatic

At Landry's Bicycles in Boston, humility and confession drive customer service.


Landry's, vision plays a leading role in customer service. While that's
not unusual in retail (every company wants to be the best in sales, and
most want to be the best in customer service), Landry's adds another
twist. What's different about Landry's is that hard-driving vision is
coupled with confession and humility. "Dream is the engine, the fire.
What is it that adds balance to that fire? It's confession and
humility," explains CEO Tom Henry.

    Confession and humility form the
foundation of the extensive training employees receive. Unusual for a
seasonal retail business, Landry's commits year-round employment and
training to its employees. During the low-revenue winter months,
Landry's invests in employees through leadership training. Seventy
percent of the training is comprised of hands-on activities: role
plays, real-time interactions with other employees, and exercises
designed to enable self-awareness.

    While assertiveness and vision
contribute to a salesperson's success, the shadow side of those traits
is often an inability to listen to others and an insensitivity to
customer (or fellow employee) needs. The leadership training includes
helping employees see their own and others' gifts, and helping them
name the shadow side of those gifts. Through seeing the constellation
of gifts on a team, employees come to value one another as essential to
the whole. Employees also come to see the need for humility and
confession, when they trip over the shadow side of their gifts and step
on one another's toes.

    Humility and confession also come
into play in customer interactions. Rather than adopt a defensive
posture, Landry's employees learn to admit their mistakes and make them
up to the customer. "We pay for our mistakes" is one of Landry's
cardinal rules. At Landry's, admitting mistakes, learning from them and
making amends has become a point of pride.

    Landry's leadership training grew out
of hard-won learning. Several years ago, the executive team was
tripping over the shadow side of their own gifts. They realized that
they needed to model what a team could be at its best if they expected
the best from other teams in the 75-employee retail company. A family
business, Landry's experienced all the blessings and curses of working
with one's own family. While working together went smoothly 90 percent
of the time, the team found themselves plagued the other 10 percent of
the time by repeated patterns of stepping on one another's toes.

    By adding another (non-family) member
to the executive team and doing extensive self-awareness work, the team
learned to value one another's gifts, see the shadow side of their own
gifts, and practice confession and humility. For example, when Tom
Henry arrived 10 minutes late to an important all-company meeting, the
new, non-family member of the executive team called him on it. Tom
practiced humility and confession by apologizing to the gathered
meeting and committing to change his pattern.

    It took a full year of hard work, but
by the end of the year, the executive team realized all the work had
been worth the effort. Now, rather than stepping on one another's toes
and building up resentments that sap energy and commitment, the team
has learned to see others' toes sooner and thus step on them less
frequently. More importantly, when someone does step on someone else's
toes, confession follows quickly.

    Landry's has learned that humility
and confession form the foundation of strong teams. As a result,
relationships within the company are stronger, teams perform better,
and customer service has improved.


    Margaret Benefiel, Ph.D., author of "Soul at Work: Spiritual Leadership in Organizations,"
works with leaders in business, healthcare, government and non-profits
to help them develop spiritual leadership. Visit her website at Copyright 2007 by Margaret Benefiel.

Guest PostMike StPierre