Mr. Johnson’s Room

Mr Johnsons RoomI had a long journey the other day and arrived at my hotel very tired. I hadn’t actually booked the room myself, my colleague had, but I had the booking reference from him and had stayed there a few times before. The lady I saw on reception was very welcoming and I explained who I was and that I wanted to check in and here was my credit card.


“I can’t see that we have a booking for you Mr. Johnson and we are fully booked tonight.”

I suggested they try and look up my colleagues name and then they would see that he had booked two rooms.

Yes, they had a booking for him but not for me.

Also, Mr. Johnson had already checked in.

Well, I commented, a Mr. Johnson may have checked in but I was clearly another Mr. Johnson (with a booking reference and confirmation email!).

Ah, but sir your confirmation email isn’t addressed to you it’s addressed to Mr. C……

Well however you look at it Mr. C has booked two rooms and I would like one of them.

But Mr. Johnson has already checked in.

And so it went on.


Is it possible that you have given my room to this other Mr. Johnson?

Well, I don’t think so.”

“Well, I know you don’t think so but is it possible?”

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“Ok, could you then establish whether this other Mr. Johnson had a booking or if he was booked under another name?”

“I’m not sure how I would do that.”

“If Mr. Johnson was in his room you could try and ring him and ask him.”

“Good idea………………..I’m afraid there is no reply.”

“Did he leave a mobile number when he checked in?”

“Good idea………..voicemail, but I have left a message.”

“I need to eat.  What time does your restaurant close?

“9.30 Mr. Johnson”

“Well then I will go and eat and perhaps you can see if Mr. Johnson- the other Mr. Johnson- replies to the voicemail”

“What if he doesn’t?”

“Well, if you are fully booked, even though I have a confirmation email, perhaps you could find me another hotel?”

“I don’t know if we can do that?”

“Perhaps you could find out, that would be useful?”

“OK, I’ll do that.”


Half an hour later- I got a call from Reception- “Mr. Johnson, the other Mr. Johnson has phoned in. He has replaced a colleague called Mr. Worthington at tomorrow’s conference so we do have a room available.”


I know I should have taken the opportunity to give some feedback and maybe tried to improve matters for the next Mr. Smith or Jones who books there but I was tired and whilst feedback is the ‘breakfast of champions’, “discretion is also the better part of valour”……….


Is there anything else I can help you with?

Anything I can help you withI had to contact my old home insurance company the other day. We have moved house and despite having cancelled the insurance and the direct debit on the previous house we got renewal papers through.

What struck me first was how expensive it would be compared to the prior year. We live in an age where companies love to get new business by offering attractive first year deals but then look to recoup any first year discount as soon as possible. This doesn’t necessarily drive the most effective client behaviour as it encourages clients to shop around but I guess they work on the basis that a significant proportion of clients can’t be bothered to do so. They benefit from the inertia factor. The focus appears to have shifted from looking for long term/lifetime clients and offering them loyalty discounts for staying, to, chase new business and try and retain them for as long as possible.

Linked to this, when I phoned to explain that I didn’t want to renew I had the normal range of – for new policies press 2 etc but if you wanted to cancel then it was a “hot line” -presumably you got through to someone who was more highly trained and whose task was to try and retain you. I explained my situation and the fact that I no longer needed the policy so would not be renewing. They dealt with that part of the call but wanted to know where I lived now and of course what cover I needed on my new house. Reluctantly I gave them my new address so that they could send a confirmation letter about the cancellation but I explained that I already had cover on that property and did not want a quote. Later I did receive the cancellation letter with of course a quote – which was significantly cheaper than the renewal! I didn’t switch.

I’m not complaining about the call which was dealt with well overall but once the business part was dealt with the employee said- “is there anything else I can help you with?” I know that companies want to take every opportunity to “upsell” but what is this phrase for? No other need of mine was identified or even questioned. So, I replied “Could you wash my car for me?” Stunned silence. I then had to explain that I was joking but that the joke had a point. Why were they asking this question? They explained that they had been told to…….. I refrained from giving some free coaching and suggested they take the matter up with their Manager because this phrase on its own is meaningless and doesn’t reflect well on their company. I’m tempted to get a quote from them now and see if there is anything else they can help me with!



Improving performance or cementing poor practices?

Improving PerformanceI was sitting in one of my favourite places the other day enjoying coffee, reading a good book and doing a little bit of people watching. It is amazing what you see if you just look. All of what we discuss in the training room happens in real life. It so happens that on the table next to me I noticed that there was a performance review being undertaken. Which is cool, as we often mention in training, getting the environment right adds great value to the process, getting out of the office can change mind sets and encourage a deeper discussion. Except, this wasn’t getting out of the office, it was the manager of the coffee shop undertaking a review with one of the baristas. Again this wouldn’t, necessarily, be a problem, however the manager insisted on continuing her day job whilst undertaking the review. The barista didn’t complain, seemingly happy with the way his review was being done to him. I choose my words carefully as that does seem to be a theme introduced by many participants on our training courses, their reviews are done to them. It is about what the manager wants to say, not about discussing ways to improve performance. Consequently, why engage with the process? Let’s just get it over with so I can get back to my day job, luckily it is only a couple of times a year. Many companies notice that performance management isn’t working and occasionally bring in some expensive consultants to redesign the process. However, generally, it is not the process that is the problem but the way the staff engage with the process.

So if you are a manager of people, reviewing the performance of others will be a part of your role. Only you can decide how big a part. You can decide where your focus is, you can decide whether it is something you do to your people or do with them. You can use it as a tool to engage with your staff or use it as another way to alienate them. Your choice, you decide.


Thinking outside the box, outside the box?

Thinking outside the boxAn article caught my eye recently which reports on the findings of an earlier research report into the link between bodily experience and creative cognition. It has long been held that the way we think and perceive things is affected by our physicality; training has embodied this by moving people around (changing their physicality) during exercises, using toys to create tactile experience whilst thinking etc.

This research takes this a stage further and sought to discover, amongst other things whether thinking outside the box was stronger than a mere metaphor. Could creative thinking be constrained by physical

constraints (in this case a box), and enhanced by the removal of that constraint.

So, one of the experiments undertaken placed students doing identical creative tasks situated “inside” a large cardboard box, “outside” the same large cardboard box and another control group who knew nothing about the box (box-less). The findings were significant, in that the “outside” group scored 20 better in creative output than either of the other groups. The same results were observed when the students were compared walking in a confined area or walking free – the latter scored significantly better.

Find out more about the research at

So, just maybe physical environmental improvements and location changes can make a significant difference and impact the bottom line. Maybe taking team meetings off-site or even out-doors would result in significantly more creative solutions to hard-to-crack problems. So what could you do differently? – Now, that requires some serious thinking outside the box………