BY SANDY BIBACK, CMP CMM
Recently my husband and I returned from a tour of The Western Front, Flanders, Belgium and the Somme, France. Much sadness for the past; much beauty in the landscape today; and very grateful for the Allies (British, Welsh, Scots, Canadians, New Zealanders, Tasmanians, Australians, India, Newfoundland and so many other countries) whose men fought valiantly so we can have the freedom we have today.
We chose to hire a private guide, Peter Jones of www.singlesteptours.com. Just the three of us toured for four days. Other than the heartache and beauty and finding the name of a dear friend’s grandfather at Vimy Ridge, I came away with wanting so much to know why “leaders” don’t listen to the people on the ground—at the front lines.
Over and over again we heard that the runners (who, by the way, had a life expectancy of about two weeks) came back to say it was not safe to go into battle. The “leaders” had their men march on anyway. It was not uncommon for the “leaders” to say they were prepared to lose up to 10,000 and more men in a squirmish! Often the loss was much more. Would WWI had less losses had the leaders listened to the runners? Would the outcome have been different?
Do you listen to your runners—those on the front line like the front desk of your hotel, like the registrar at your conference—when they tell you that what is in place is not the best answer? If not, why not? What is wrong with making strategic changes and learning from your runners?
Walt Disney managed by walking around, being on the shop floor so he could understand the issues that the animators, moviemakers were having—so he, as the leader, could make appropriate changes. When was the last time, you as a leader, served at the registration desk, checked people in at midnight in your hotel?
What would have been different if the “leaders” of WWI would take a turn at being a “runner”?
I leave you with two photographs I took: A cemetery of men who fought bravely, many of whom are unknown soldiers and the serenity of Somme’s no man’s land as it looks today.
If you have an interest in WWI, want to find a relative, get some information: here’s some websites:
Forever grateful to those who fought for my freedom.
Sandy Biback, CMP, CMM, is principal, Imagination+ Meeting Planners Inc. She has designed programs and taught at George Brown College’s School of Hospitality, Centennial College, Conestoga College and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas: Online. In 1997, she helped publish the textbook, Meetings & Conventions: A Planning Guide. Sandy was inducted into M+IT’s Hall of Fame in 2011.