Thursday, July 12, 2007

Branson follow up

Yesterday I travelled on a Virgin Train from Birmingham to Newcastle return – a total of 7 hours on two Virgin Trains.

Having just read the book I thought to myself …here is a chance for me to do some live research.

I went along to the Virgin train shop to get a coffee and decided to have a chat with the young man (probably late 20’s) behind the counter.

I decided to be ‘devils advocate’ and therefore lied as I said:

"I’ve just finished reading Richard Branson latest book ‘Screw it Lets’ Do It’ …. And in the book he writes about how ‘in touch’ he likes to be with front line staff in the Virgin empire but I’m a bit cynical about all that crap"

I was lying because I believe Richard Branson is genuine …. I awaited with a keen interest this guy’s response.

This was his reply…

"Richard Branson is very approachable and yes we see him quite a lot. He always talks to us and he listens. I like him and in fact he is far more approachable than our middle mangers."

WOW!!! – AMEN AGAIN!!

This was wonderful for me to hear.

Middle managers in organisations are often the key people. In my experience those middle managers who like to ‘control’ are nowhere near as effective as those middle managers who trust the front line staff just to get on with it.

Really interesting to hear from a random front liner that world icon Richard Branson is more approachable than their immediate supervisor … what a powerful learning point for me yet again that underlines my thoughts about Branson having the right leadership style – GET ALONGSIDE FRONT LINERS AND TRUST THEM COMPLETELY.

12 comments:

Dan said...

Wait a minute - you picked a random "man behind the counter" on a random Virgin train, and he said "Oh, sure, we see Sir Richard fairly often..."

Wow. That's an impressive story. I was already impressed by him, when I read Losing My Virginity. This totally cinches it.

Dan said...

And by the way, I love the photo of you and Annie on your sidebar. It's beautiful.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Dan ... and yep it was absolutely random. It impressed me too. I would love to work for Sir Richard. Thanks for the comment about our photo - we are in love - simple and as wonderful as that my friend:-)

David Wike said...

Blimey, last week you wanted to work for Semler! I thought you were enjoying working for yourself!

Trevor Gay said...

Fair comment David ... I enjoy working for myself more than I ever did working in the NHS for 35 years

Semler and Branson both simply just 'get it' as far as I am concerned and as role models I can think of none better!

Actually rather than work FOR them maybe I would rather work WITH them!

David Wike said...

Perhaps you should invite Ricardo and Richard to join the Simplicity team!

Last year I was on a training course that was essentially about communication. The trainer had worked with Virgin and had met Branson. She said that he had the same ability as Princess Diana to talk to people at all levels and to make them feel special. But she also said that he had an aura around him that left you in no doubt as to who was in charge!

Apparently Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair also have the ability to make you feel that you are the only person in the room when they speak to you. Have you been watching the Alistair Campbell diaries programme on TV? It was fascinating to hear how he and Tony Blair were absolutely captivated by Diana and particularly the way she looked at you, how expressive her eyes were.

I think this is a good lesson in communication for us all. It is all too easy not to really focus on the person who we are talking to, not to really listen to what they are saying.

Trevor Gay said...

David – We do customer care workshops and one of my slides gives academic evidence about the most effective facets of getting you message across and the following are the percentages according to the folks who know these things.

The actual words we use 10%
The Tone of voice 30%
Body Language 60%

It tells me it is actually more about eyes than ears.

There is not doubt the great communicators throughout history have a real presence and an aura. Some of the most intelligent and academic people who are not good communicators often fail to get across their point very well.

David Wike said...

Yes, I’ve come across these figures before. I am surprised that actual words count for so little but I suspect it depends on context a fair bit. However, we have discussed before the classic ‘Can I help you?’ from people whose tone of voice and body language leads you to believe that being helpful is not high on their agenda.

I think that the more difficult skill is to really listen and take in what is being said. Most of us are probably too busy formulating what we are going to say rather than focussing on what is being said to us. Or have made assumptions as to what is being said, based on our expectations, rather than what actually has been said.

Dan said...

Yes, it's your love that makes the photo so beautiful...

Trevor Gay said...

David - As an example, if I listen to IT experts talking their 'own language' it is usually less than 1% of the words that make sense to me! Tone and Body language are ALWAYS more powerful to me.

Thanks Dan - you are right again :-)

Dmitry Linkov said...

Wow! That's fantastic! I also always believed in Richard Branson - but to hear such things from a real front line staff - that's amazing!

Nice experiment Trevor =)

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Dmitry - have you noticed how simple the approach is?

We sometimes get bogged down in worrying about having perfect processes to seek feedback and forget the obvious methods that stare us in the face every day