Leadership Visions from Italy
September 15, 2016
I had an incredible opportunity to spend this week in Italy with my wife. For six wonderful days, we drank espresso, ate pasta, walked until we were hungry again, and then did it all over once more. Venice, Florence, Chianti, Montalcino, Bologna. Each city, amazing in its own right, and all of them a pleasure to visit. As the week progressed, I started taking more notice of the small things – things that, as an American, I probably take for granted. And as a leader, things that can inform and engage me day-to-day as I strive to create an amazing experience for my customers, consultants, and employees.
I offer these thoughts now as our week is ending and I anticipate a return home to children, friends, and co-workers:
Each member of society here is valued, with few accommodations made for the disabled. I know what you’re thinking: “That’s horrible! They need ramps and lifts and special seating and their own walkways!” That’s what we would do in America. Surely from the best of intentions, but inevitably creating a society where the elderly or disabled are simply “attached” to the rest of us, not really “with” us. We grow numb from the inconvenience of those needing help, and resentment and apathy seeps into our communities. In Venice, the elderly were helped up and down stairs, sometimes by strangers, mostly by family. Disabled were carried where they needed to by strong young men. No rails were built on the side of the canal, and no ramps, save a very few, replaced the incredible stairs used by all for centuries.
As a Leader, I find this inspiring, and it encourages me to constantly find ways to integrate every member of my team into the fabric of our purpose, regardless of their shortcomings.
Encourage others to help where they can, because a compassionate team is a successful team.
We spent 3 days and nights here, with more than half of our waking hours spent tableside, eating the amazing Italian food and drinking the fantastic wine. We were never rushed away from a restaurant, never made to feel like we were taking up valuable table “turn time.” The food was made fresh, and served fresh, which took a little longer. But our conversations were deeper and more meaningful, and we shared laughs with strangers from all over the world. Back in the U.S., it seems too many restaurants are pushing revenue over relaxation, quantity over quality.
Our society of instant gratification offers limited time to get to know each other, like a few hundred million ships passing in the night.
Leaders can motivate teams more effectively by focusing on the outcome, not the numbers. Create an environment where people can spend a little bit of time creating great experiences for customers and each other. Time spent planning together as a team can accelerate success greatly.
The food! By far our favorite gastronomic stop – the meals here were world class. The town (they call it a Commune) was safe, clean, diverse, and alive. Great shops, great sights, and did I mention the food? What struck me most, however, was the noticeable lack of mobile devices in people’s hands. Friends skipped down the street, fingers locked. Lovers sat on benches holding hands. Moms or dads or grandparents pushed strollers with babies. And they talked – to each other. And looked – at each other. No distractions beyond the person or family with them, and you could feel the closeness – everyone walked just a little bit nearer, talked a little more softly, about real things, not emojis or memes.
Leaders – encourage your teams to ditch the devices, and spend real time with each other, talking to each other, getting to know one another. Looking at someone while you give them good (or bad) news is powerful and creates a connection where one might not have existed before. Respect for each other grows immensely when people aren’t hidden behind screens.
Our trip was amazing. Italy is amazing. The United States is amazing. But we are all a work in process – men, women, kids; husbands, wives, co-workers; bosses, owners, politicians. We can all learn from the most basic building blocks of life – community and family. If you get the chance to visit another country, look up. Look around. Look at life through a different lens. And then look in the mirror.
This post is from our CXO Blog series, written by Jeff Zirker, our Chief Experience Officer (CXO). See the rest of his collection here.
Jeff Zirker started with TSG in 2015 after more than 22 years with a leading U.S. technology company. His passion for people has led to the implementation of new processes and programs across the company designed to enhance customer experience. No stranger to adventure, Jeff once spent two weeks on an uninhabited Hawaiian island.