“I’m thinking, as a 6-year-old, 7-year-old, what are their thoughts?” she said. “So I said to them, ‘I need you to know that I love you all very much and that it is going to be okay.’ Because I thought it was the last thing they were ever going to hear.” Caitlin Roig, a 29-year-old teacher, Sandy Hook Elementary School
As I write this I have tears on my cheeks – of sorrow and of gratitude. I am reminded that I am father to three children. I am reminded the awesome contribution many teachers made to my life. I can remember the care that was bestowed upon me during those early years when care/love is particularly important. And I know that I am in a position to write this only because my fellow human beings saved my life twice. The first time was when I was 7 years old and went into a coma as a result of an automobile accident. The second time was when an unusually kind, alert and ‘can do’ doctor told me to get into his BMW and raced me to the emergency room at the local hospital where the right people were ready to sedate me and operate on me. I owe my life – as it is and as it is not – in large measure to my fellow human beings.
What has this to do with leadership, organisational effectiveness, and customer experience? A good question and let me address it. I have done process design and business re-engineering. I have done cost-cutting and organisational re-structuring. I have done the metrics side of things. I have done technology selection and implementation. I have done recruitment, induction, job design… I have done and still do strategy. None of these show up either on their own or in combination as the true source of organisational success.
My stance on leadership, organisational effectiveness, employee engagement and service was shaped in my days in corporate recovery. The days when I would turn up unannounced (either individually or part of a team) and be responsible for running a business that had gone into receivership or administration (for those of you in the USA think Chapter 11). The challenge was to call forth the best of the people in the organisation whose future looked bleak. And that happened in every one of the organisations. There was something that showed up brightly which I have found to be missing in ‘normal’ organisations. And which does not reside in strategy, in technology, in metrics, in processes, in people/culture. What is this difference?
As I read about what occurred at Sandy Hook and in particular the courage, the heroism, the sacrifice made by the principal and the teachers I am face to face with that which I noticed in my corporate recovery days: the power of the human spirit to transcend the most difficult of circumstances.
I am clear that the difference that makes the difference is the human spirit. When the ultimate crazy request was made – to risk their lives to save the lives of their ‘customers’, the young children in their care – the teachers (and the janitor) at Sandy Hook did not fail their customers! What was it that enabled the staff to rise up and meet that challenge? Was it strategy? Was it policy? Was it process? Was it KPIs? Was it money/rewards/promotion? Was it technology? No, it was the human spirit coming to life in those teachers when it was summoned.
And that is the central issue for me. Our organisations – private and public – do not make space, do not call forth the best of us: our human spirit. On the contrary, our organisations, indeed our society, does the reverse it shuts out and/or suppresses the human spirit. We do this by our obsession with the the technology of strategy, of process, of metrics and measurement, of people practices, and of IT.
How to end this post? It occurs to me that I am a stand for the human spirit in business, in organisations, in life itself. And that pretty much is the underlying thread in what I write here on The Customer Blog (and on my second blog Possibility, Transformation & Leadership). And how I aspire to show up in the world.
No, I wish to end this post with a dedication to the principal of Sandy Hook – Dawn Hochsprung – who showed what real leadership is. And to Victoria Soto who gave her life to save the children in her care. And the humanity of Caitlin Roig who thinking that the end was about to come told the children that she loved them all very much. Why? She wanted them, her ‘customers’, to experience love, being loved.
I cannot resist this, the urge is too strong. To all those who talk social and confuse it with social media and the self oriented marketing, selling, chit-chat and vanity that takes place there, I say that the true meaning of social is the social that showed up through the actions of the principal and teachers at Sandy Hook. I say true social is the social as expressed by Caitlin Roig: “‘I need you to know that I love you all very much and that it is going to be okay.’ Because I thought it was the last thing they were ever going to hear.”
I am proud to be member of the human race. And I say I will continue to be a stand for the magnificence of the human spirit in all walks of life. I have a question for you: what would show up if you treated your customers with the kind of care/love that the Sandy Hook teachers did for the ‘customers’ in their care?