Why a Broken Ironing Board is a Leadership Problem

By | November 24, 2014

Kool Derby

It’s Monday morning, and I’m getting ready for several important meetings in the Los Angeles area. I selected a hotel right near the Orange County John Wayne airport because of its convenience. My morning was planned perfectly, including breakfast, a quick workout, and getting the wrinkles out of my clothes that come from packing in one’s luggage.

I waited to do the ironing after showering, just before heading out the door. I know some of you are wondering why I didn’t iron the night before, and that is good advice. Unfortunately, I failed to plan, and was left no choice but to accept the circumstances.

Time to Iron

I allotted myself only 10 minutes to iron my clothes and to walk out the door. I did confirm the night before that the room was equipped with an iron and ironing board, so I was not completely irresponsible.

I went to the closet to retrieve the ironing equipment, and selected the shirt to iron. When trying to set up the ironing board, I noticed the locking mechanism was not working, which meant the board would go flat and essentially rest on the floor. I tried several times, thinking that perhaps I was overlooking a piece. I shortly realized that the ironing board itself was malfunctioning and did the best I could with the board sitting on the floor.

Because I was in a hurry, I failed to report it to the hotel management team. However, I did leave the ironing board on the floor, hoping housekeeping would catch on and replace it that day.

Nope! When I returned later that evening, the same broken ironing board was placed in the closet. I called the front desk, and a fully-functioning device was delivered shortly thereafter.

A Leadership Issue

The role of leadership is to create a culture of top-notch customer service. By setting high standards, everyone on the team, including the front desk and housekeeping personnel, will be vigilant in their day-to-day work.

As a consultant, I know that where there is smoke, there is fire. In most cases, these small breakdowns are part of a systemic problem. In other words, the broken ironing board is a sign of enterprise-wide issues, such as poor working conditions, lack of quality control, and even low employee morale.

Avoid Taking Chances

An excellent leader should take a proactive approach, and consider what else might be broken. Breakdowns do happen, and that is part of running a business. However, it’s important to conduct a quick audit of processes and procedures. By doing so, we can identify a problem before it escalates into a catastrophe.

My meetings went well on this Monday, and my clothing was presentable. The workaround of ironing on the floor worked this time, but I should prepare the night before to avoid unforeseen events.

When these situations arise, I am reminded of what I can do in my business to improve the work I provide my customers. One strategy is to put myself in the role of the customer. Another good approach is to ask questions, and keep asking. I want to identify issues and problems before the wrinkles create an embarrassing situation that stains my reputation.

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