All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Early in my career, when I was 31 or 32 years old, I served as a city manager. The golf course in town, which was part of the city’s responsibility, had an opening to hire a new golf course manager. When spring came around and we still hadn’t found anyone to fill the position, it became my responsibility to oversee the golf course.
As soon as I knew I was going to have additional responsibilities, I went over to the course to meet the staff. I wanted to be an engaged leader, even if just in the interim. I wanted to know what their problems were. Plus, I knew they had some issues with the previous manager and I wanted to better understand that situation.
So, when I arrived and met with the two greens keepers, I said, “Tell me what the issues are that I can help with as we take this organization and this golf facility to the next level.” The two greens keepers replied with: Our problem is with these golfers. They tear up the golf course, they leave divots, they leave spike marks and they are always filling up the trash cans.
That moment I learned that #1 – they detested the golfers and #2 – they had no clear understanding of what their purpose actually was.
Their job wasn’t just to grow grass, their job was to create an environment that served golfers.
I began to talk to them about this and remind them that the biggest advocates they had were those golfers who paid the fees to golf that then allowed their salaries to be paid. The more divots and the higher the trash cans were filled, the more golfers who were enjoying the course and the more stable their jobs were.
No one had ever presented the situation to them like that before. They had spent their entire careers being angry because golfers were damaging their grass instead of celebrating the number of rounds of golf that had been played as a result of their hard work.
As leaders, we all can fall into this mindset sometimes where we forget who our customers are and that our work often revolves around serving those customers, not protecting our own needs. If your customer base is growing, creating more demand for your organization and thus, more work for you – you’re probably doing something right!
Question: What have you been frustrated with that could really turn out to be a blessing in your organization’s success? Are you paying more attention to the greens or to the golfers – your customers?