Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I love this story from Kevin and Jackie Freiberg's great little book, Guts! Companies That Blow the Doors Off Business-As-Usual (2004):

When a Southwest gate agent in Austin, Texas, was approached by a very distressed customer who spoke only Spanish, her willingness to think like an owner may have saved the man's life. The customer was on his way to Houston for a kidney transplant, and he had mistakenly gotten off the plane in Austin. The gate agent spoke Spanish, too, and she was able to figure out that not arriving in Houston early the next morning meant that he could lose his chance to get the kidney. She knew there were no more commercial flights from Austin to Houston that night, but she remembered that Mark Robbins, an Austin ramp agent, was a private pilot. In entrepreneurial fashion, she explained the customer's predicament to Mark, who flew the man to Houston that night. And the gate agent went along for the ride, knowing the customer would be more comfortable having someone else with him who spoke his language. No call was made to the CEO or anyone else to ask permission. The two employees simply handled the customer's problem, knowing that the company would support them. . . .

Great breakthroughs and extraordinary acts of service usually happen out on the radical fringe of a clearly defined boundary (pages 86-87).

I really believe that story illustrates how to manage for impact and success. What works in business also works in community development.

Community members who have little to offer but their time and smarts can and do make a huge difference when they are trained and set free to serve our "customers." And, it is the same with our employed staff.

Much to think about here.


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