Leadership Mints Series Sampler On Enforcing Company Policy

Miffed, the customer shook his head in disgust as he continued to load his can goods and cereal boxes in the checkout lane. Then he got mad and glared at the cashier in exasperation.

The cashier had just informed the customer of the grocery store’s policy: one package of toilet paper per customer during the Coronavirus crisis.

The customer was determined to thwart the store’s policy. He passed the second package of toilet paper to his 6-year-old daughter at the end of the lane and told her to start walking down to the self-serve checkout area. The customer ignored the cashier’s protest.

The irate customer paid for his groceries including one package of toilet paper. And then he hightailed it down to the self serve checkout. The cashier notified the manager. And the manager confronted the customer standing in line at the self-serve checkout with a second package of toilet paper.

If you were the store manager in this situation, how would you have enforced the company’s one-to-a-customer policy?

Do you intervene commando style, grabbing the pilfered product and making sure the offending customer gets the message with your authoritative voice and  demanding demeanor?

Or do you hop on your guilt-ridden horse and try to embarrass the offending customer into submission?

Or do you intervene with a softer collegial style that tries to reason with the offending customer with your pleading, puppy-dog  eyes?

Or do you do something completely different like this manager did with her rigid body language, stiff neck and an even a stiffer spine?

The manager’s stern, beady eyes projected a hard-nosed, bull-headed posture that seemed to defy her 5-foot-2-inch stature.

She stood an-arm’s length away from him, virtually in his face. And stared UP at him for longer than the 3.3 seconds that research shows creeps people out.

Finally her Medusa-like stare — a stare that could turn others into stone, according to Greek mythology — caught his attention. He looked DOWN to her.

They were locked in a staring contest for what seemed like another creepy 3.3 seconds. Their staring contest seemed to evince the gritty fortitude of attentive soldiers standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Neither would budge. Or blink.

Finally, the manager spoke softly and confidently (although later she admitted that she had to masked her shaking hands and minimize her fear).

“You know I can’t let you have that package on THIS SHOPPING trip.” She stood firm and silent. Her stern eyes seemed like so many daggers digging into his eyes as she counted to herself 1001, 1002, 1003. Finally the offending customer blinked. He said simply: “I know.”

He handed the package of toilet paper to her and left with his dignity still in tact.

And the manager left with her authority recognized. Her stern look had enforced her company’s policy without causing a scene that would make other shoppers feel less than secure and jeopardize future revenues. Her stern eyes –like so many shining stars — had shed some light on the darkest hour of that customer confrontation.

So the next time you are about to get into a shouting match with a customer, defer to your eyes as so many stars to speak for you as the situation darkens, tempers flare and nerves fray.

Be stern —serious, unsmiling, frowning, poker-faced, severe, forbidding, grim, unfriendly, sombre, grave, sober, austere, dour, stony, flinty, steely, unrelenting, unyielding and unforgiving —as the dictionary defines stern. And become a managerial star in your own right. After all, the German word for star is stern.

For more tips on leveraging body language to persuade others, consider purchasing a copy of SPEAKING Like a Leader, the 300-page book now available on Amazon.com.

SPEAKING Like a Leader is part of the Leadership Mints Series that also includes a book  on creativity —THINKING Like a Leader , a 296-page book filled with 77 Leadership Mints and a 300-page book on empathy filled with 77 more Leadership Mints-LOVING Like a Leader.

All three books in The Leadership Mints Series are designed for busy leaders seeking to refresh their feeling for leading in 5-minutes or less — the average reading of a Leadership Mint.

The 3-books
in The Leadership Mints Series
available on Amazon.com
in print and e-book

What is a Leadership Mint?

Consumed like a breath mint — quick and on-the-go — a Leadership Mint is a short story that energizes leadership behaviors and personalizes leadership principles so they are more easily remembered, more readily acted upon and more fully applied.

Treating Others Fairly Not Equally

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to reinforce relationships in times of stress. Reading time: 2:49

           Your high profile, highly-regarded top employee embarrasses your company –and himself—in a late night fender bender that clearly broke expected rules of behavior. Other employees are lobbying you to make sure you dole out the proper punishment “to serve as an example to all employees,” they say.

Catcher Yogi Berra bear hugs pitcher Don Larsen to celebrate Larsen’s  Perfect Game in the 1956 World Series

          Of course you have to enforce the rules. No favoritism. Black and white issue. Done deal.

         Not so fast.

        That’s why the most effective leaders focus more on the shades of gray. Penalizing without paralyzing future performance.

        Consider how Casey Stengel, a gray leader extraordinaire, handled this situation as the manager/leader of The New York Yankees.

       It happened during the spring exhibition season a few months after his star performer – Don Larsen – pitched the first (and still the only) perfect game in a World Series. Larsen wrapped his car around a lamppost at 5 am in St. Petersburg, Florida –then known primarily for its high concentration of retirees. Larsen was more embarrassed than hurt.

         Newspaper reporters asked Yankee leader/manager Stengel if he was going to fine the star pitcher. Stengel smiled and said: “Anybody who can find something to do at 5 am in St. Petersburg deserves a medal not a fine.”

       Stengel diffused the situation with humor when he realized the minimal impact of the situation: no one hurt, minor damage etc. and the opportunity to reinforce his supportive relationship with his star player.

       Of course, Stengel opened himself up to critics who charged favoritism. But Stengel recognized his role as a leader was to treat all of his direct reports FAIRLY not equally. Continue reading “Treating Others Fairly Not Equally”