By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to maintain a relationship if not the truth. Reading time: 2:58.
The customer is clearly wrong. Yet the savvy leader makes it right without losing his or her integrity and without losing a customer. Let’s take a lesson on walking this tightrope of customer service from Michelangelo, the sculptor turned psychologist or customer service maven.
Michelangelo’s customer—The Ruler of Florence Piero Soderini —thought the nose on David was too big. Michelangelo disagreed. After all he had carved up plenty of corpses in studying for himself the anatomy of the human body. Michelangelo knew he was right.
But Michelangelo also knew he had bills to pay. He needed this relationship with this customer to work. What could he do to save this account and his artistic integrity?
Michelangelo scraped up some marble dust in his hand, then climbed up on the 17-foot tall scaffold and pretended to chisel the nose while letting the marble dust in his hand fall to the ground as the customer smiled his approval. Michelangelo climbed down and the customer beamed his delight.
Was Michelangelo a leader or a liar?
Consider a similar situation from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life” when the dad –Jimmy Stewart–“fixes” the petals of a flower she kept on her bed-stand.
The dad surreptitiously stuffs the separated petals in his pocket and puts the flower back on the bed-stand letting his daughter, Zulu, think he magically pasted the petals back on the flower.
Was the dad a leader or a liar?
The dad was a leader. So was Michelangelo.
Sure they lied. They absolutely did not tell the truth. But they did maintain the truth in their relationship; they did reinforce an environment that fostered a fruitful relationship primarily from the OTHER’S point of view that secondarily also addressed the needs of the leader.
Zulu was looking for comfort and security from the dad. The commissioner of the statue of David was looking for validation of his sense of judgement and artistic appreciation from Michelangelo.
As leaders, they addressed THEIR “customer’s” needs first, then and only then did they achieve something the leader needed. For the dad that he could do something right during a time of personal failure and frustration.
And for Michelangelo that he maintained his integrity to himself as an artist; that he couldn’t be bought by the whims of a customer; that he could NOT be treated like a whore serving others just for money. Yet in both cases, the primary thought of the leader was first on someone else.
Are you a leader or a liar? Sometimes you have to be one to be the other. Nothing is black or white. Or even marble.
Sometimes you have to lie to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
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