We tend to think that a tomato is a tomato, a carrot a carrot, but over the years, farmers have introduced new genetic iterations of both crop and livestock. The wheat used to make bread today, for example, is different than the wheat used 20 years ago in that same recipe. Moreover, just like dogs, there can be many different of breeds – or in the case of crops, varieties – within a single species.
But mass-production in farming has caused a homogenisation of certain foods. “People started using just a couple of breeds for whatever they’re doing – meat, milk, eggs or fibre – in order to get the same sized animals to fit on an assembly line for processing and transportation and – more importantly – to make them grow as quickly as possible,” explains Ryan Walker, marketing and communications manager at the US-based Livestock Conservancy. “Agriculture today is all a numbers game.”
How do we improve the service we provide our customers? We ask them. We send out electronic surveys, we have in-person conversations and we read the reviews that are posted on the various online sites. Then we respond.
In addition to our vision of who we are, we fine-tune that vision with the feedback from our customers. There is nothing matter-of-fact about this; it is not always easy to listen, and hear what someone is saying about the service you provide, without taking it personally. And it is not possible to provide a heartfelt service without being a contributor.
Several years ago I was in conversation with a friend and I noticed that frequently she would end her sentences with “right?!” This could have been easily replaced with the Canadian “eh”, or the often used “you know”, but at the time, her use of right really stuck with me.
I wondered if she actually needed to have confirmation that we agreed with what she was saying and if this was an insight into her psyche. As soon as I noticed this speech pattern in her I also noticed it in myself, and found that I, at some level, wanted confirmation from those with whom I spoke.
Our society is geared for the need to be right and therefore there is a possibility to be wrong. We test our kids from the time they start school. In fact I remember sitting through a parent-teacher conference when my son was in Pre-K; the teacher explained how wrong it was that my son was not coloring between the lines. “Why was that important?” we asked. “That was the “right” way”, she responded. We want to be right in an argument, vote for the right candidate, and choose the right school, job, partner, or meal.
What would it mean if we were “wrong”? Or, worried less about being “right”? My theory is; we could have a varied experience of others, an open dialogue, and a rich experience of what surrounds us. We could be open to the multi levels of expression of any given situation. Our capacity to stay in the moment would be strengthened, giving us a fuller, more satisfied experience.
But the pull to be right is strong; we equate not knowing with fear. This could be a bit messy, and uncomfortable, but it could also be a place of discovery, freedom and creativity.
When I look at my online reviews or the electronic surveys, I find myself holding my breath as I read and hope for totally positive feedback. Of course this is not realistic. When the reviewer has a complaint or a suggestion I need to step away from my ego and step into the experience of the reviewer. I take a couple of breaths; plant my feet on the ground and remind myself that these comments can help us hone our skills, that they don’t represent us in our entirety, and are not a representation of right or wrong. It is a part of our evolving service and hotel, we will never “arrive” or be everything to everyone. What we can be is open, responsive, available, and willing not to be “right!?”
When I was a kid, fine tuning meant using the dial on a transistor radio to tune in an AM radio station, or using a dial on a TV set to get the horizontal hold to stop flipping around and around so you could see the program on the television. Both of these things were frustrating and getting them to work just right could include a tap on the top or side of the television and a shake of the radio, combined with futile attempts at adjusting the antenna. On a recent tour of the Ainsley House in Campbell, CA, the docent pointed out the markings on a radio placed to find the stations, which were hard to tune in.
In my teens I wanted a piano, but ended up with a guitar. The piano was my plan, but then I had to figure out a way to make the strings of the guitar work together so that they produced the sounds and rhythms I wanted. I was not a virtuoso and what came next were lessons, practice, development of my style; and most of all a consistent desire to improve my developing skill.
These days, fine-tuning includes the details of a well thought out plan. The plan could include financials, marketing and sales strategies, and perhaps a vision. Sometimes it feels like all the work is in making the plan, often times because getting down to it is very hard. Writing the document, setting the rules, making the schedule, whatever the task at hand, beginning can be daunting. The truth of the matter is, this is just the start.
The plan is like the starter’s pistol signaling the start of the event. The excitement comes after the plan is put into practice. It is as important to have a plan, as it is to make adjustments to the plan after it is put into practice. This is the need of fluidity; no matter how well thought out and exacting a plan may be there are variables that occur that need to be addressed. Responding in real time can be the tipping point between a plan’s success or it’s disaster.
Here at the Maple Tree Inn I started with a plan, and as I began to implement that plan I was able to see how it was affecting the entire operation, including the physical property, employees and guests. Through communication with our guests I began the fine-tuning process. One way I hear from our guests is though a survey sent after check out, this survey, Market Metrix asks pointed questions and gives space for comments.
Responding to our guests is very important, and similar to looking into a magnifying mirror. It is not always comfortable to see all the flaws, but it is the first step to making adjustments. These adjustments can make a difference to our guests and to our business in a very positive way. It is one way to dial into the channel that we want to listen to, and I am grateful for everyone who takes the time to share his or her experience to help us fine-tune.
Just over a year ago the Maple Tree Inn experienced a change in management companies, now Waterford Hotels & Inns. When I started at the Maple Tree Inn I added the job to my LinkedIn profile, but didn’t fill in any of the details about the job until recently, when I added Transition Leader. That is what I have been doing for the past year or so, transitioning with the owners, hotel, employees, guests, and vendors.
Change, no matter how small, is never easy. It is our nature to find comfort in the familiar. Never the less, change is inevitable and most often, when we look back, we think; “that was good”.
When I first arrived to take my position as General Manager, the hotel had one bird named Maple. Secretly I was thrilled, I had wanted a bird for years and had always succumbed to the desire our family had for a cat. Having to care for Maple seemed like the best of both worlds, bird by day, cat by night.
Maple was, like the rest of us, facing change. She was angry, confused; and as a result couldn’t see, at that moment, things were getting better. How do you make changes and do it in a way so that everyone is ready and can embrace the change? Where do you start?
I did have a vision, one that started with the owners; Bay Area community leaders, with a desire for their hotel to be a cornerstone of Sunnyvale; top in rankings with the community, guests and employees. A product they could be proud of and a legacy that could be passed on for generations.
When I was asked how I was going to make the shift that needed to happen, I responded “from the inside out”, which seemed a bit flip. On reflection I realized that there was no real formula. In the beginning it was a bit of “one foot in front of the other”, always with the desired outcome in mind.
I started listening to my guests and watched to see how they were making out in the hotel. Many things came out of this, but one main thing was that everyone seemed to love Maple, and wanted more than anything for her to have a mate. As it turned out someone’s’ cousin had three birds and wanted to give away one because they were not getting along. This of course speaks directly to “just because you get another pet, it doesn’t mean they are going to get along”. I did the research on how to integrate the birds and decided to get a new cage with a divider so Maple could, at the very least have a neighbor if the union didn’t work out as her long lost love.
When Romeo arrived he was loud, skinny, and big eyed like a Margaret Keane painting. Did I mention loud? He had never been handled and I’m not sure if I mentioned his lung capacity was capable of breaking an eardrum. I was positive, at that moment; it wasn’t going to work out, but that was eight months ago and true to his name he has charmed us all. All except Maple, who enjoys his neighborly ways and is happy to have the divider to keep him in his own playground.
Recently one of my staff asked me what I learned from Romeo. After a moment I answered, “Patience is what I learned”. Just because I had a plan and direction I needed to be fluid, able to respond in real time and adjust accordingly. Romeo couldn’t be bought with a promise. I had to be consistent, stand my ground yet be flexible, work with him everyday to show him what was expected, and be aware of his capacity and ability to move forward.
My work with Romeo is a nice metaphor showing what I need to do as a leader tasked with transitioning the Maple Tree Inn to the next level. Proudly we have received a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor, and moved our ranking from 15 to 8 in the last year.
As for Romeo, he is happily learning to perch on my hand (without taking a chunk out of my finger) and tweets a “cat call” when someone of interest passes by.
I am co-hosting a workshop and would love to see you there, here are the details.
Step Into Your Power
Embody Personal Strength and Wholeness
Rejuvenating Pool Side Network Event and Workshop
Are you successful, good at what you do, yet still feel limited or unsatisfied?
When we only focus on our strengths, we get more of the same result.
Would you like to capitalize on your inherent abilities and live the life you are meant to live?
Join us for a glimpse of the possibilities that can lead you to:
Work Less, Make Easier Transitions
Achieve Powerful Outcomes
Saturday, June 8, 2013
10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Maple Tree Inn, 711 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA
Hosted by Certified Integral Coaching Team
Where together we identify your unique qualities to support stepping into new possibilities. You experience excellence in your endeavors and joy in life.*
Register at: http://powerstep.eventbrite.com
Includes: Keynote, Fun and Interactive Workshop
Lite Fare and Free Gift Bag Cost: $32 Advance / $35 Door
Step into your Power and take the steps to help you get to where you want to go!
*Discover Integral Coaching
Paying attention to what happens around us, or what the universe is offering is not always easy.
Separately, and in different formats I have repeatedly heard in the past week the same message.
In the moments of first meeting you can see the now, the past, and the future of the relationship. All is present in that moment, you just need to be open to receiving the information.
How open are you?
No matter the direction I turn, the stone I uncover, the tree I climb, I end up at me.
A friend sent this to me a while back and I just now watched it, I loved it and wish I hadn’t waited so long…enjoy