Monday December 8, 2008
By Mary Jane Flanagan, training director
Angle grinder man
One of my favourite news articles in recent years came from a Kent newspaper in 2003. It was about an odd job man who after a hard days work would don his superhero outfit: blue leotard, boots and brown pants (yes brown!) worn on the outside, with a logo of an angle grinder and a mask made out of gold paper. He would tour the streets as the UK's first wheel clamp vigilante.
Motorists loved him as you can imagine. They called call his hotline number and could leave a message after the grinder sound. When interviewed he said 'I for one am prepared to fight for what I believe and I'm making myself available to the public.' Kent police said no complaint had been made therefore they would not take it any further.
Anyone can be a super hero
This got me thinking about what superhero I would be if I had the opportunity. They take many forms: Gene Kranz the NASA operations director who got Apollo 13 home, Lance Armstrong who defied the odds to win the Tour de France seven years in succession. They can be all ages, like Tom Daley the 14 year old who represented England in the Olympics. Or anonymous like the woman in Chelsea who on Friday's takes a bag of £ coins and feeds everyone's meter - I often think of her when I get my parking tickets. Superheroes can be you and me.
The power of the positive
My superhero of choice would be Ms Positivity. I would try to give everyone I meet positive feedback: friends, colleagues, and complete strangers (I would be the nutter on the train and bus that talks to everyone!). I'd tell them how well they served me; if I saw someone deal with a difficult situation I'd go and tell them how well they handled it. I would also spread the word and tell all the delegates on our management development programme about the power of the positive. I would wear our learnpurple hero outfit of black suit, high shoes, full make and well coiffed hair.(I'd save my wonder-woman costume for those special Saturday nights with my husband, and leave the underwear worn on the outside for Madonna!)
As managers we often look at what is wrong and try and correct it, why not also look at what is right and encourage more of those behaviours. When I train teams on achieving service excellence the question I often ask is do they get enough praise, usually they say no. I also ask if they give enough praise and we talk about how important it is to encourage each other and share the wins.
What super hero are you going to be? Are you going to scale buildings and save the day or simply be someone that reminds their people about the good stuff and saves costs through higher performance and better motivated teams?