Do the right thing — not the rule thing

Last week, on stage at our annual colleague event, my CEO made a call for every employee to actively break the rules of the organisation.

In her debut year as a Chief Executive she called on people to use common sense rather than policies.

For us to bin the rulebook and think on our feet.

For leaders to praise those who bend rules as long as it gets the right results for customers.

Insane, surely?

Not at all. I’ve posted before about how the organisation of the future would be those who differentiated their customer experience from the competition. Those who rip the rulebook apart rather than slavishly follow the herd will be rewarded in an era of mass personalisation.

That post was prompted by seeing two people actively admitted breaking the rules. But although they thought they were doing the right thing it was against the practices or policies as applied by their managers.

The first time we were in a bar we’d been to a couple of times. On both occasions we’d had maybe two drinks and left a very modest tip. On the third occasion the waitress came over without taking our order.

She remembered it. A large beer, a white wine. Ice on the side.

She said — “This is a free round on the house. My manager doesn’t like me doing it — but I think regular customers deserve it. Please don’t mention it if you see him.”

I think we went back to the bar every night for the rest of our holiday. The manager never knew why.

The same trip and I was staying in a hotel that had free wifi. Except you had to renew it every few days at reception. Your were given a very complicated password and username that you couldn’t change and had no chance of remembering.

Except one day I see someone new on reception and I ask her for a couple of passwords. She asks — “Can you tell me your room number Sir?”

And she hands over two user names and two passwords — personalised based on our names.

She says — “My manager says it’s not policy and is risky. But people keep saying they forget their passwords and they keep coming to the desk. I mean , how could anyone remember something so stupid? So I thought we could use their names. Please don’t tell them I do this though.”

Customer experience isn’t about policies , systems and protocol. It’s letting people do what they do best — being brilliant as only THEY can be.

Knowing customers , personalising service, surprising people with the unexpected. Making them remember you.

Leadership should be about encouraging unexpected behaviours that don’t follow the script. And building rule breaking into everyday service.

On Friday my CEO made possibly the bravest call any leader could do. She encouraged people to disrupt their own organisation.

She admitted it wouldn’t happen overnight. She confessed she knew that many managers wouldn’t be comfortable with it. She shared that she knew there would be mistakes along the way.

Our guest speaker, Angela Blanchard, coined the approach “Doing the right thing, not the rule thing”. I think that might stick.

Tell your teams to break a few rules every day. Just make sure they encourage customers to tell you about it.