The Organizational Development Muse

Dr. Mark L. Vincent's Blog

A lesson in organizational leadership from visiting McDonald's

Posted by Mark L. Vincent on Mar 7, 2008 8:29:00 AM

A recent McDonald’s visit left me scratching my head. An old geezer (I use the word advisedly) returned to the counter to return his sandwich because it had cheese on it. Since the sandwich comes with cheese normally, he would have needed to request it to be removed, which he had not done. I know this because he made his order loudly and I was standing behind him in line.

He used the occasion to argue just as loud as he had ordered.

“Everyone knows I can’t eat cheese!” (Apparently he was a regular)

“McDonald’s cheese looks like something in my grandaughter’s diaper.”  (Ewwwwww!)

“Come here in the evenings and all you get are a mess of lazy kids working behind the counter.” (I was thinking “work here in the evenings and you get customers with nothing better to do than hang out all evening at McDonald’s”).

With every comment Mr. Geezer looked me in the eye and wanted me to agree with him. What was I supposed to say?

“Sorry I didn’t know that cheese is a problem for you. I’ll try to remember that in the future even though I live four hundred miles west of you and will probably never see you again.”

“Now that you’ve spoiled my dinner with the grandaughter’s diaper comment, would you do me a favor and ask them for my money back?”

“Actually, I think young people today are filled with hope and promise. I guess you find what you are looking for.”

I write all this because bringing leadership isn’t something someone can do 24/7. I can’t be the customer police, retool the McDonald’s menu so it clearly says “you get cheese on your sandwich unless you request it to be removed,” nor provide a customer service lesson to the employees currently working on that shift.

The leadership point of view is something one carefully cultivates, but one must also carefully cultivate when to put it to work. Focus on right now things or nearby things and the long-term gets removed.

I’ve been impressed lately with the life of King Hezekiah as an example of a leader who kept the main thing the main thing. See 2 Chronicles 29 and following in the bible for the story of his life, and the inspiration of his example. He carried out his mission of reform in spite of the many distractions that could have derailed him. Items like threats of war, religious diversity, and corruption didn’t get in the way of what he new needed doing.

-mark l vincent

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