CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 29, 6th October 2003


  1. Editorial: Lessons from public speakers
  2. Coaching notes: Establishing service standards

1.     Editorial: Lessons from public speakersRichard Winfield

Richard Winfield

I am a member of various organisations that expose me to visiting public speakers. I learn from their content, and I also model their presentation skills for use when coaching individuals and teams before presentations.

I have noticed that some high profile speakers do not apply the basic rules of answering a question. These are: -

  1. Acknowledge the question, preferably thank the questioner e.g. "Thank you; that is a very interesting/helpful/relevant question".
  2. Ensure that everyone has heard the question and that you have properly understood its meaning. In most cases this means repeating it and addressing it to the greater meeting.
  3. Then answer the question, addressing the greater meeting. It is very intimidating as a questioner to have a personal response with sustained eye contact, and for the rest of the meeting it is frustrating to feel ignored. So take trouble to embrace the whole meeting.
  4. Finally, return attention to the questioner and check that they are content with your treatment.
  5. Then move on unless it is a situation in which it is reasonable for the same questioner to ask a supplementary.

I have attended a couple of presentations in the last week. Justin Hughes of Mission Excellence is a former Tornado pilot and Deputy Team Leader of The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. The "Red Arrows" practise three times a day five days a week. And after every flight, regardless of time constraints, the team carries out a debrief. This is a democratic exercise – no name, no rank, no attitude – individuals are referred to by their job titles, and the leader makes the first comments on his personal performance.

Justin's message was that de-briefing is the most powerful tool for improvement. The process is:

  1. Start on time (to the second for the Red Arrows)
  2. Clear the air of mistakes
  3. Discuss what went wrong
  4. Discuss what went well and why
  5. Discuss what went badly and why
  6. Summarise with learning points;
  7. Finish on a high and leave on a positive note

My experience of organisations is that they rarely de-brief. How often does your team have serious structured words together after an event or at the end of a project?

Another speaker was England rugby captain Will Carling, who spoke about leadership. Will was made captain at the young age of 22 and was involved in a major change in the way the English rugby team performed. It was interesting to hear how this 22 year old captain introduced business management practices into a traditional sporting context.

He told us that he wanted to lead the man not the rugby player. He wanted to understand the man, know what was going on in his life. "Captaincy is not about giving pep talks at half time but about about making the preparations and setting the right tone before the match."

When he took over, the team had become accustomed to losing and for many players the main objective was not to get dropped from the team. As a result they had become very risk averse and preferred avoiding the ball to risking making a mistake. He believed strongly in rugby being a team sport, and is not infavour of the "man of the match" approach. Rather, he wanted them to be proud of each other and of the team. His objective was to change the mind set, and he introduced a three year programme to win the World Cup.

Will told us how he spent time listening rather than telling and introduced upward appraisal so that he could know what they wanted of him and well as what he wanted of them. He focused on process rather than outcome and concentrated on what people could do rather than the previous approach which had been to discover people's weaknesses and coach them out of them.

The result was that the players learned the intensity they needed and focused on winning. The improvement in performance was dramatic.


2.     Coaching notes: Establishing service standards

Last week I described how the Disney Corporation creates a service theme. This week I explain the next stages – how they establish and integrate service standards.

Guidelines for establishing service standards

Objectify What is the objective of each standard?
Prioritise Are the standards prioritised in order of importance to the customer?
Train Are the standards effectively communicated to your employees from the beginning of their employment?
Implement Are the standards used when designing and testing all aspects of customer service?
Maximise In executing your service standards, do you shoot above the mark?
Understand Have you taken into account the needs of your customer and employees? Have you viewed the standards from their perspectives?
Maintain What systems are in place to ensure that the standards are being maintained? What measuring tools, procedures, and policies monitor the effectiveness of the standards?

Barriers to quality service

Having developed the service theme and set the service standards, Disney teams are then required to consider what might stop them from delivering it. They consider general barriers, those that occur only for the team in question, and those that arise in the primary delivery system.

They identify the needs, wants, stereotypes and emotions of the target audience and then identify ideas and initiatives for meeting and exceeding their expectations.


They integrate the key service standards by considering them from the points of view of the employees, the environment/resources and the processes/ systems – rather similar to the Balanced Business Scorecard discussed in CorporateCoach No 25.


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We hope you enjoyed this issue of CorporateCoach. If you would like to learn more about how we can work together, then please contact me, Richard Winfield