Chief executive’s speech

An excerpt from a speech for a client’s internal staff awards, at a dinner the London Transport Museum. The client – a train company – had recently been through a tough time keeping its services running in extreme weather, and it was an opportunity to perk up staff moral.

….I say ‘we’ — and I’ve certainly been out and about supporting everybody on the frontline, and I know the rest of the senior management have been too.

But, in the end, it’s you and your colleagues who have been the ones de-icing cabs, standing on freezing platforms, helping cold and tired passengers complete their journeys. On behalf of those of us who aren’t on the front line I’d like to thank you for again rising to the occasion. We truly appreciate what you’re doing.

Thankfully though these kinds of crises aren’t the norm. As a company, our focus has to be on the day to day challenges of delivering a service to our passengers, and it’s easy to get caught up in the downsides of those challenges and forget the vast majority of times when we get it right.

And we do get it right a lot more often than we’re given credit for – more often than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. Numbers never tell the whole story but they tell some of it. But, for instance, our reliability, our punctuality, many of our customer service measures are up. These are all achievements which we can all be proud of. They don’t happen because someone is sitting in head office like Star Trek’s Captain Jean Luc Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise saying ‘make it so’. They happen because everybody is working to get better every day. Engineers, drivers, conductors, station staff have all worked together to provide our passengers with a better service.

We all know the line about ‘lies, damn lies, and statistics’. As I say though, it’s about more than numbers –  it’s about providing a service for our passengers, as simple as that.

Incidentally I was looking for a quote about providing services – I’m sure someone somewhere would have been able to put it far better than I could – and checked whether  Douglas Adams had come up with one of his usual pithy, hilarious one liners. You can’t really go wrong with a quote from the man who wrote the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, after all. I found this:

“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”

Once I got over the shock of being the first person in human history to find a Douglas Adams quote that wasn’t funny, I realised that what he’s talking about are the values that lie behind the actions, that govern how we all behave.

The training you receive can’t possibly cover every single situation you’ll find yourself in at work, and nobody wants to stand over you every second of every day telling you what you do.

That’s why the values we all work to as a company are so important. They’re the way we’ll keep getting better every day….