Let's jump right down in the weeds.
Every day, all day, people in our organizations answer phones and respond to email and present information. When they communicate, do they make us look better or worse?
I'm not lamenting the downward spiral of grammar and spelling skills in our society, or the rarity of good listening, or even the lack of critical thinking (disappointing as those may be). I'm talking about another trend that is undermining the professionalism of our businesses: transparency.
I called a local restaurant the other day, thinking I might have lunch there and wanting to ensure that I could get WiFi to prepare for a meeting.
Me: "Do you have WiFi for customers?"
Employee: "Uh, no. We had it but I think they lost the password or something."
Transparency is part of our (new-found) authenticity drive, where we don't just show up with shiny shoes that present a professional image, we tell you how hard it was to find the shoe shine kit in our messy closet and how our significant other yelled at us because we were late. Not always so nice, that transparency stuff.
Disney doesn't believe in transparency. A pillar of its approach to delivering superlative customer experiences is keeping the behind the scenes stuff, well, behind the scenes.
Professionalism requires judgment, and our employees don't usually emerge from their childhoods and schools as professionals. And the problem is not a symptom of bad attitudes. I've heard some of the nicest, most helpful employees - on the phone, with external customers - say things like, "He's not here right now. I think he forgot something and had to go back home to get it."
If you're cringing, it's probably because you wonder how often your people do similar things.
Finding a solution is one of those sticky management things. How do we instruct, model and encourage good judgment? Here's at least one set of filters for "Should I Say This?" that could help anyone with a reasonable head on his or her shoulders:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it productive?
3. Does it help us be who we want to be?