40 Leadership Lessons from the Freedom Trail – #7

On the 31st August 2013, Lesley, my wife and soul-mate, retired after 35 years teaching in secondary schools. Two days later, as planned, we set off for a magical celebratory holiday, taking in New York, California and Oregon. Our trip became known as the ‘Freedom Trail’.

While on the Freedom Trail, I journaled every day and ended each entry with a leadership moment/lesson. Here’s another!

P1330493#7 – Leaders apologise for issues

Today we left New York City on a cruise ship headed for Halifax, Nova Scotia and back, via Boston and St John’s. The itinerary looked great and we would get a chance to see a small part of Canada, which would be another first for us.

We stood on the promenade deck and watched the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty glide slowly by. What an amazing way to bid farewell to one of our favourite cities.

Then followed a day settling into our cabin, exploring the ship and eating! Anyone who has ever cruised before will know what I mean by this. They will also know that every cruise line worth their salt values its onboard entertainment. It comes in all sizes, from children’s entertainment to adult comedy. From singers to dancers. From cabaret to gambling. You name it, most everything is on hand.

Typically the highlight for each day is a major cabaret in the main auditorium. We duly headed for this and took our seats. The Director of Entertainment opened up with a warm welcome to all in multiple languages. He quickly segued into an introduction of the first act and began to exit the stage.

At this point disaster struck. The stage lights, synchronised to the music, went into meltdown within seconds of the group starting their first number. Enter stage right the Cruise Director. He immediately apologised to the audience and the performers and advised us that repairs were immediately underway. He also hoped that this would not spoil our evening’s enjoyment.

He then played a masterful stroke. He spent the next 15 minutes  playing an impromptu version of the old game show, YES/No Interlude, with participants from the front rows of the audience. It was hilarious and his command of both participants and the wider audience was truly wonderful to watch. Calling on all of his years’experience, he held the audience spell-bound till the running repairs were completed and the show proper could begin.

[Tweet “The shortest feedback loop I can think of is doing improvisation in front of an audience. – Demetri Martin”]

Thanking everyone for their patience and the back-room team for making the repairs needed, he then segued back into a new introduction for the first act and on the show went. It was a fascinating piece of leadership to observe in such an unexpected setting and one that was a privilege to see at first hand.

When was the last time you were called upon to use all your year’ experience to rescue a major situation? How well did you do? What would you do differently another time?

Leaders apologise for issues, provide an explanation as to the problem, improvise a response that keeps customers informed/happy, and takes the time to praise those that eventually fix the problem.

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