One of my favorite all purpose learning tools especially on the topics of attitude, customer service and making an impact is an obscure audiotape by bestselling author and motivational speaker, Dr. Wayne Dyer.
Although it’s entitled “Choosing Your Own Greatness” I’ve always referred to it as the “duck tape” since there is one particular section in which Dyer discusses ducks and eagles. Early on, Dyer reminds us of “an old saying in management… don’t send your ducks to eagle school.” Dyer contends that there are two types of people in the world- ducks and eagles and that there are a lot of ducks in the world but relatively few eagles.
And, trying to turn a duck into an eagle is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever have. Ducks are easy to recognize. They think in duck-like ways — a kind of impossibility thinking and their responses sound like quack, quack, quack as they try to convince us that what we propose can’t be done, was tried before, wasn’t invented here or that the rules prevent us from serving your unique needs or solving your particular problem.
Dyer proceeds to use various stories and vignettes from his own interactions to further characterize eagles and ducks. In each case, the eagles in a given situation exceed expectations, find a way to make it happen, focus on the needs of the customer and solve the problem at hand. They choose a positive attitude about their work, engage the customer with care and a willingness to solve the problem rather than stick to “the rules”.
The ducks on the other hand quote the rules, policy manual and general practices as a way to avoid solving the problem. Examples are drawn from airline reservations, banking services, hospitality and even grocery packing.
The reason I love this section of the tape is that it captures, in a real and humorous way, some fundamental beliefs I hold. People find success and soar like eagles when they are optimistic and choose a positive attitude. When they first focus on the customer’s problem, issue, need or challenge and when they persist to solve that problem or fulfill that legitimate need despite the opportunity to use an existing policy to deny service.
Now, I understand there are times when “exclusions” are necessary and appropriate. But no time is good for regular complaining, customer or peer victimization or poor quality work. Dyer finishes one particular story of a duck travel agent with “I just want to talk with a human being who DOESN’T ALREADY BELIEVE IT CAN’T BE DONE”.
And that summarizes a central point for me. Don’t be the kind of person who approaches a situation already believing it can’t be done. Cultivate that ‘can do’ attitude and the habit of asking yourself: How can this be done if we really wanted to do it? Wrapped up in asking HOW is the underlying assumption that it CAN be done (which isn’t the same as it must be done). In fact, you may decide that something shouldn’t be done after all, but at least you didn’t start with that assumption.
Dyer’s parting warning is that the world is full of ducks and you have to be very careful you don’t turn into one yourself.