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Flat Tires and a Leadership Case Study

I was visiting my local tire shop recently for a periodic tire check and rotation. Unlike during their busy times when customers have to come inside and wait for service, I timed my arrival for a slower period.

  • Two (2) of their associates came outside to greet me.
  • One in front, hand outstretched, telling me his name and welcoming me.
  • The other lagged purposely behind and let guy #1 do the talking while he kept a supportive and watchful eye.

In total, their initial approach to service was impressive. I also confirmed that one of them was ‘training’ while the other one was ‘being mentored’.

I shared with them that in my experience the most world class organizations are also the ones that have a robust mentoring and succession plan in place.

Guy #2 said, ‘great that you would mention being world class. We’re always training. Guy #1 has been here for over 10 years and to meet our goal of being a world class organization we have to keep training and keep developing our people.’

There are more than 57 MILLION results on Google for “World Class Organization” so he wasn’t going out too far on a limb claiming they had the secret sauce to be one of them.

I mean, really.

Didn’t Enron say they were world class too?  Before they got caught defrauding everyone?

Yet here we were, chatting in front of my under-inflated tires, on opposite ends of a superb customer experience.

Here’s the difference between sayin’ and doin’, a difference that this organization clearly understands:

  • Each mentored interaction between Customer #1 and Associate #1 improves the condition of Customer #1 AND Associate #1.
  • Those results help Associate #1 improve the condition of future Customer #2 (and 3 and 4 and so on), which further improves Associate #1’s condition.
  • When each Customer’s condition AND each Associate’s condition improves after each interaction, the organization’s condition improves too.

In other words, effective mentoring can create a WIN-WIN-WIN.

A couple of quick notes about mentoring:

  • Mentoring is not intended to deface the associate (especially in front of a customer). It is one person looking for a opportunity to build the skills and knowledge of another person.
  • Mentoring is not an opportunity for the mentor to exert themselves as the all-knowing arbiter of truth. Even mentors need to be mentored. What comes around, goes around!

Consistent and supportive mentoring can be the gift that keeps giving.

Have you considered all the ways to improve yourself, your customer and your organization by being a mentor and a ‘mentee’.

In summary, my (gas) mileage has improved because of my recent (tire) service.

How can an effective mentoring program add more air to your leadership this week?

[FYI:  The tire company in the article is Discount Tire.  According to their site, they started in 1960 and dispense tire service and sales in over 900 stores in 31 states.]


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