Leadership Coach Blog
Jan 22

Written by: The Leadership Coach
1/22/2012 5:37 PM  RssIcon

The Empty Chair

This simple, cost-free technique for keeping the guest at the heart of your decisions  was invented by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, and is particularly useful for members of your team who are not in direct contact with customers. One of the first meetings at Amazon.com was held in a small room with few chairs. 

Bezos sat on one chair with his hand on the seat of another. As the room filled up, people began leaning against the walls, as there were no more chairs to sit on. Yet still Bezos refused to remove his hand from the chair.

Finally, the meeting started. Bezos took his hand from the chair and announced that this was the customer's chair. The customer has no voice, no presence where the decisions are made, said Bezos. So, at every Amazon meeting from now on, he said, there will be an empty chair for the customer. And everyone in the meeting will imagine an Amazon customer sitting in that chair, listening to every word and wondering what it's got to do with them

How to use this tip

One GM in an IHG owned and managed hotel now does this – He put an empty office chair with a little blue hat on the headrest (!)  around the table for his Excom meeting and told all his department heads to imagine a guest in that chair listening to everything they say. And that everything they say should have some connection to improving life at this IHG hotel for that guest. If it doesn’t, don’t say it. He says it focuses everyone’s mind on the guest experience.

Where does this tip come from?

The IHG Leadership Coach, who was told this story by Amazon’s first Global Customer Services Director. The IHG Leadership Coach is a resident leadership expert. He runs the IHG Leaders Lounge, a unique, award-winning  online leadership development community where leaders from IHG’s owned and managed hotels share proven practice in how to lead their hotels in a way that inspires higher performance. These leadership tips are only licensed for use within IHG branded hotels and shouldn’t be used outside them.  Question for The Coach?: phil.dourado@ihg.com  


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