Service With A Smile

May 1, 2013 | Uncategorized

The last time I was invited to post on this blog, the Olympic torch was doing the rounds. What a fantastic event that proved to be the precursor to!

One of my abiding memories will be of the Games Makers, that extraordinary body of volunteers, whose happy, positive, good-humoured and helpful demeanour characterised the Games. Although the Games Makers have already received a remarkable series of plaudits, I do not think it is possible to speak too highly of them. Here was a huge group of people – 70,000 in number – galvanised into action, such that every single one of them ‘got it’. I read an article in ‘The Guardian’ last month, which said: –

“… Think for a moment how much poorer the London 2012 experience would have been if we’d had reluctant, under-valued, minimum wage employees doing the job, recruited in a hurry by a commercial provider in a panic. One shudders at the thought of sullen and disenchanted temporary workers with no emotional connection to the games. Grim – and definitely not inspiring for any generation …”

My immediate reaction was: you wouldn’t need too much imagination to envisage such a scenario. The Games Makers processed everyone through airport-style security at every venue, and they did so by treating the ticket-holders with dignity, respect and – most importantly – a ready smile! Contrast that with the reaction foreign visitors will have had when they were unfortunate enough to arrive at London, and be processed through airport security and UK Border Controls. Invariably, that is a fairly miserable passage. If first impressions are as important as they are said to be, how unfortunate it is that the world’s first impression on arriving in the UK will have been a group of people whose down-faced expressions and detached air seems to course with negativity. In the same way that someone deserves praise for the way the Games Makers embraced their role with such enthusiasm, someone else is equally culpable for the miserable conduct of their airport security counterparts.

Now, it wasn’t a quantum leap for me to then ponder how those two contrasting practices would translate in the commercial workplace. Where the Games Makers were concerned, Sebastian Coe and his team identified how to do things well: –

• Horses for Courses: The selection of the Games Makers involved careful screening: it wasn’t enough just to have a desire to take part, the volunteers were matched to the roles that suited their skill sets and personality profiles. Too often in the commercial workplace, I encounter people that are designated to roles by reference to their seniority, rather than their strengths. For example, not everyone can network, and not everyone can sell! A good team is selected to have a wide range of skills, and – like any good Olympic team – everyone should be selected to play to their strengths. Good teams nurture the right people who can really add something.

• Feeling Part of It: The Games Makers were well briefed, and were made to feel an integral part of creating an experience. They clearly derived a great deal of satisfaction from the immediate feedback, that let them know how well they were doing their job. How different to many workplaces, where staff don’t get to know the crucial role they are playing as part of the bigger picture, and consequently lack any real sense of what the culture and strategic direction the executives are all striving toward actually is!

So, with those positive lessons in mind, now seems a great time to revisit of our own strategic planning. Let us hope that Langdowns DFK can ignite the raw spirit of the Games Makers, and find a way to be the best we can be. After all, delivering the greatest show on earth was some ask, but if a volunteer army can manage it, there’s hope for us all!

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