I seem to be asking myself this question more often lately. My latest experiences were with La-Z-Boy furniture in Amherst, and Dunkin Donuts in Williamsville, NY. These were two very similar experiences, but very different outcomes.

My Dad owned a La-Z-Boy recliner for 30+ years. It was a comfortable chair, but nobody better be sitting in it when he came into the room!

I wanted to purchase a new recliner to use during my recovery from hip surgery. I was hoping they’d have something in stock, but could certainly understand if it needed to be ordered. The problem is, as I was told, it takes 6-8 weeks to order one. That seemed like an excessive amount of time to order a “stock” recliner. After all, I wasn’t ordering a Mercedes-Benz with custom measurements for my hips and butt! (although that might be a great line of business for someone who actually knew about customer service).

I asked the somewhat-disinterested store salesman about the length of time required. Surely, I thought, another store would have this model in stock. Was there any way to transfer stock to this store? I’d even consider going to another store in the area if they could check for me.

No can do. Six to eight weeks. End of discussion. No “sorry, I wish I could help you,” or “let me see what I can do for you.” Just “nope.” Come on. I can seriously order a custom-option car in less time than that!

Needless to say, I told him that unless he could find a way to speed up the delivery, it would end his sale prospects with me. No response. Oh well, I guess I can live with my old recliner for a while.

I wanted to relate this experience to the corporation. I know if one of my staff provided this kind of customer experience, I’d like to know about it. Here’s my response:

Dear Mr. OKeefe:

Thank you for your inquiry and interest in our fine products.

La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries are independently owned and operated. Unfortunately, we do not have access to what they have available in stock or on display. Our normal production time is 6 – 8 weeks for a custom order.

We suggest you contact store management at the Amherst location to discuss the lack of service you received.


La-Z-Boy Incorporated

Let’s look at this one.

  • From “Incorporated.” Really?
  • “Fine products?” Maybe. A bit outdated I have to say. As much as I liked my Dad’s recliner, the new ones were almost the exact same mechanicals (clunky and loud). But that’s ok. They should be proud of their products.
  • The company line sounds familiar. They really don’t have access to their own stores? Do they know the phone numbers? Wow. And I wasn’t ordering anything “custom.” I didn’t even know that was an option. I don’t think it really is.
  • They “suggest I contact store management.” Isn’t that what I did? Maybe you could help that process along? No, push it back on the customer.

I wonder if this company has a Customer Experience Officer (CXO)? Doubtful, huh?

Here’s a contrast. I’m a Dunkin Donut coffee fan. We have to drive a bit out of the way to get coffee at one of their stores. I love cream and sugar in my coffee, but Beth takes it with cream only. She was on her own, and stopped to get a cup on the way to work. “Medium coffee with cream, please.” Again, another long story, but the customer service was less than friendly, and worst of all, they put sugar in her coffee. To her, that’s undrinkable. Unfortunately, she was well on the road before she tasted it. So she had to toss it. No coffee that morning.

She wrote an e-mail to Dunkin Donuts similar to mine. Dunkin Donuts is also a franchised organization, by the way. Here’s her “corporate” response:

Dear Beth,

We would like to thank you for taking the time to contact us about your experience at the Dunkin’ Donuts shop located at xxxxxx.

We work hard to maintain the highest standards in guest satisfaction however, it appears we have let you down and for that we apologize. We have forwarded your comments to the owner of this location as well as our Dunkin’ Donuts field executive to make them aware of your experience and request that the owner of this location contact you.

We hope that you visit us again soon and give us the opportunity to serve you.

Thank you and have a great day.


Customer Relations Associate

This one is easy to take, right?

  • From Stephanie. A real person?
  • Thanks for contacting us about the “experience.”
  • “We let you down.” Wow, they understand.
  • “We apologize.” Unique. “La-Z-Boy Incorporated” didn’t apologize to me.
  • “We have forwarded to the owner.” OK, saved me the step. There was no “not our problem, it’s yours” type of response as in the La-Z-Boy version.

Within a day, she had a phone call and apology from the owner, and ten dollars in free coupons to Dunkin Donuts.

La-Z-Boy, see the difference? We’re still Dunkin Donuts customers. We will never buy a La-Z-Boy again. And we’ll tell all our friends about both experiences.

Customer service isn’t dead, but it’s on life support.

(reposted from theokeefes.com)


100 Blog Posts

From OnlineDegree.Net – 100 Blog Posts That Will Make You A Better Leader.

Good smattering of writing. Check it out!

What Matters Now

Seth Godin’s Free e-Book

It’s worth every penny! Download it for free here:


It contains more than seventy big thinkers, each sharing an idea for you to think about as we head into the new year. From bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert to brilliant tech thinker Kevin Kelly, from publisher Tim O’Reilly to radio host Dave Ramsey, there are some important people riffing about important ideas here. The ebook includes Tom Peters, Jackie Huba and Jason Fried, along with Gina Trapani, Bill Taylor and Alan Webber.

An informal survey done over the listserv of the International Leadership Association resulted in the following list of most influential books on leadership. I came across this list in Deeper Learning in Leadership by Dennis C. Roberts.

International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior by N. Adler
Integrating the Individual and the Organization by C. Argyris
Knowledge for Action by C. Argyris
Social Foundations of Thought and Action by A. Bandura
On the Nature of Leadership by R. Barker
Bass & Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership by B. Bass
Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations by B. Bass & B. Avolio
Spiral Dynamics by D. Beck & C. Cowan
Leaders by W. Bennis & B. Nanus
Stewardship by P. Block
Thought As A System by D. Bohm
Power Up by D. Bradford & A. Cohen
The Student Leadership Guide by B. Burchard
Leadership by J. M. Burns
Philosophical Foundations of Leadership by D. Cawthon
The Courageous Follower by I. Chaleff
Leadership Theory and Research by M. Chemers & R. Ayman
To Lead The Way by D. B. Clark
The Charismatic Leader by J. Conger
Principle Centered Leadership by S. Covey
The 8th Habit by S. Covey
The Deep Blue Sea by W. Drath
A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness by F. Fiedler
New Approaches to Effective Leadership by F. Fiedler & J. Garcia
Paradigms and Promises by W. Foster
The Reconstruction of Leadership by W. Foster
Nuts! by K. Frieberg & J. Frieberg
The Leadership Investment by R. Fulmer
On Leadership by J. Gardner
Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way by R. Gerber
Servant Leadership by R. K. Greenleaf & L. C. Spears
Leadership by M. Hackman & C. Johnson
The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell by O. Harari
Leadership Without Easy Answers by R. Heifetz
Kinds of Power by J. Hillman
Leadership by R. L. Hughes, R. C. Ginnett, & G. J. Curphy
The Social Psychology of Organizations by D. Katz & R. Kahn
Exploring Leadership by S. R. Komives, N. Lucas, & T. R. McMahon
The Leadership Challenge by J. Kouzes & B. Pozner
Leadership On The Line by M. Linsky & R. Heifetz
The Connective Edge by J. Lipman-Blumen
SuperLeadership by C. Manz & H. Sims
The Leader,  the Led, and the Psyche by B. Mazlish
The Leadership Odyssey by C. S. Napolitano & L. J. Henderson
Leadership by P. Northouse
The Adventure of Working Abroad by J. Osland
Surfing the Edge of Chaos by R. Pascale, M. Milleman, & L. Gioja
In Search of Excellence by T. Peters & R. H. Waterman
Lincoln on Leadership by D. Phillips
Ready To Lead? by A. Price
Leading People From The Middle by W. Robinson
Leadership for the Twenty-First Century by J. Rost
Organizational Culture and Leadership by E. H. Schein
Leadership in Administration by P. Selznick
The Fifth Discipline by P. M. Senge
Insights on Leadership by L. Spears
Policy Paradox by D. A. Stone
Leadership and the New Science by M. J. Wheatley
A Theory of Everything by K. Wilber
The Leader’s Companion by T. Wren
Leadership in Organizations by G. Yukl
The Nature of Executive Leadership by S. Zaccaro

Who’s hiring?

I’ve blogged before about the importance of professionals using social networking sites like LinkedIn. As someone who has changed jobs often along with doing consulting work, it’s so important to have that network of connections with which I can keep in touch. Having lunch every once in a while with former co-workers, friends and even family in business can open doors that would never have been possible alone. Sites like LinkedIn and Plaxo don’t make that happen automatically, but they do make it easier to find folks that you otherwise may not communicate with very often.

LinkedIn has the ability to create and join groups. Leadership In Action has one (please join ours)! I also recently came across a worldwide group called Linked:HR Leadership. It’s a sub-group of the Linked:HR group, which has over 170,000 members worldwide.

The Human Resource professionals in this group are some of the people who are doing that hiring. They screen thousands of resumes and phone interviews, and work with several levels of management and leaders. These are the people you need to convince of your skills and talents when you interview for your next job. The question I posed to that membership is this:  “What are the top leadership qualities are companies hiring for in middle and upper management?”

The responses are still coming in, but have some pretty good insight. Ability to inspire with vision and show integrity are some of the comments so far. What a great opportunity for you to join the discussion!



For the principle of recycling described in the previous post to work effectively in a leadership system, it requires leader and followers to work in partnership–the third principle of ecological systems. All parties must trust and respect each other if the flow of communication is to remain open. Without trust and respect, relationships become poisoned with fear, anxiety, and competitiveness. The exchange of information between people becomes constricted. This limits people’s responses to the environment.

Partnership requires each person to exercise the principle of flexibility. You need to build rapport with someone if you are to develop mutual trust and respect. You achieve rapport by communicating in a way that is comfortable and understandable for the other person. This puts that person in his or her comfort zone when interacting with you. The person will then be more open to sharing their thoughts and feelings with you and listening to yours.

When people’s interactions are characterized by flexibility, the entire system becomes more flexible in its response to various situations. People are open to learning and sharing rather than protecting themselves behind habitual behaviors and uncompromising opinions.

Flexibility fosters the principle of diversity. The more wide ranging the perspectives and skills within a group, the more options are available to it when responding to varying circumstances.

This supports the system’s sustainability–the sixth principle. The more effective the group in responding to changes in the environment, the more likely the group will thrive.

This brief outline of the relationship between ecological principles and leadership systems is meant to encourage further exploration of the organic nature of leadership.

This blog entry continues to explore the application of ecological principles to leadership by considering the principle of recycling.

All organisms in an ecosystem produce waste. What is waste for one species, though, is food for another. The result is a system without waste. This cyclical process differs from a linear operation, which ends with waste being discarded unused.

The principle of recycling applies to the flow of information within a system. Information is a system’s food source. According to organizational consultants Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers writing in their book A Simpler Way, “Information feeds the local explorations that keep a system viable and stable.” The needs of a system are “nourished by Information.” If information is restricted, the life of the system is threatened.

A system takes in data, processes it, and produces outputs. Information that is received and evaluated as irrelevant is discarded. What is rejected is informational waste. What is considered unimportant by one part of a system, however, may be deemed useful by another part of the system. A system’s viability is enhanced when the system improves its capability to notice, process, and apply a broader field of information. One individual within a leadership system may not take notice of a specific piece of information. Someone else, though, may see the relevance of that discarded bit of data and apply it for the good of the system. Each individual within the system brings a different perspective to every situation. Each person’s point of view needs to be respected if it is to benefit the whole.