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Do Your People Quack Like Ducks or Soar Like Eagles?

by Jennifer Beever on March 31, 2011

The Duck PondI read a book on Servant Leadership co-written by Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, and Colleen Barrett, CEO Emeritus of Southwest Airlines. In the book, Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success, the co-authors use a great analogy for the style of customer service employees provide.

There are ducks and there are eagles.

Ducks are fostered by self-serving leaders, who create duck ponds. Ducks are often managed by a supervisor called “The Head Mallard.” Ducks quack and quack the company line and are not empowered to solve customer problems.

Eagles are employees empowered to solve problems and take matters into their own hands. Eagles soar. The book includes several stories (some will bring a tear to your eye) about how Southwest Airline employees are empowered to soar like eagles to solve people’s problems.

In one story, Ken Blanchard tells how he forgot his I.D. on the way to the airport to fly to another country. With no time to spare, he bought a copy of his book, Everyone’s a Coach which he wrote with Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula and which had his photo on the cover, at the airport bookstore. The skycaps at Southwest accepted the book as identification, praised him for knowing Don Shula, and one happily escorted Ken to security because he knew the people there. Ken got on his Southwest flight. Then, when he had to connect with another airline, he encountered a duck pond. The employees at the other airline quacked and quacked, and referred him to the head mallard, with whom Ken had to negotiate and suck up to get on his next plane.

I encountered a duck pond and an eagle in the same outfit recently. I travelled to another city for a conference, arriving late at night at a hotel that was hosting a huge event. When I got to my room across from an elevator mechanical room, I found that a shrieking noise came from that room every time the elevator went up and down. When I called the front desk, I was told “The hotel is fully committed tonight, but I can send an engineer to look at the problem.” Quack! I had to make several more calls despite the hour, and finally the manager assigned me another room in a very quiet floor that was perfect. He was an eagle!

Are your employees ducks or eagles? Do you have a duck story? An eagle story?

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