“There are three groups of people with respect to empowerment: Those who get it. Those who really want to get it. Those who probably will never get it.”
– Robert Spector, The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence
During my time at Nordstrom, there were slow days and busy days, or seasons like Christmas, which were busy every day, all day.
Mr. John Nordstrom (Mr. John as he liked to be called) would periodically visit the stores, especially in advance of the holiday season. It was a lot like a General visiting a military base, he’d walk around and run his finger along a fixture to see if there was any dust. Look for fingerprints on the glass or just start opening boxes in the stock room to see if the merchandise was organized and sized properly. It was always harrowing for me because I wanted everything to be perfect, and trust me if it wasn’t perfect, well then… you know, then came the very unpleasant lecture about standards. That only happened to me one time. Usually, I knew when he was visiting but sometimes, he’d just show up, the point being, that as a young manager, I learned that I needed to be ready for an inspection every day. It was a great lesson for me, and I continue to work that way even today. I treat my work like it needs to be perfect because, in the back of my mind, I expect that Mr. John could show up at any time and conduct a review. For those of you who have served our country, you know what I’m talking about.
The other thing he’d do is just stand on the floor and watch everyone work and interact with customers. I’d stand with him, and we’d chat about business, I’d answer his questions about customer service, sales, inventory… trends in the business, etc. Sometimes I think he wasn’t really listening to me but asking me questions so my team would not realize he was watching how everyone was working. After a period, he’d walk up to various members of the team, introduce himself, and have a chat. In a big store with many employees, most of the staff wouldn’t know he was the guy with his name on the front of the building. He was the very definition of “management by walking around”.
At the end of the visit, we’d talk about my team. He always had feedback for me. Is everyone working with a sense of urgency? Does everyone have a smile on their face and in their voice? Who are my top performers and who is bringing up the rear? Curiously enough, we never really talked about the quality of our customer service because he said he could see it in our numbers and by watching how everyone worked. If we were growing the business, that meant our customer service was good.
The holiday season is upon Tahzoo and just like at Nordstrom, we are about to be very, very busy. We have two new clients kicking off next week and based on the forecast, every single person in the company is going to be billable. I expect these to be multiyear engagements, it’s exciting work too, … we are going to do a lot of very meaningful work, the impact of which will make millions of people a little bit happier every day.
So, what does a sense of urgency look like at Tahzoo? It means that you’re taking the initiative. What needs to get done, and how can we do it faster or more effectively? What ideas do you have to improve our consulting, our processes, and our quality? Are you participating in the marketplace of ideas? Contributing intellectual capital to our clients and our business? How are you making your team better? I may not be able to stand on a department store floor and watch everyone work, but I certainly can see who is driving and pushing the company forward. We are going to talk about this at our all-hands call on Monday. Looking forward to hearing some good ideas and to seeing all of you leaning into the business and the opportunity in front of us.
Let’s go be great!