January 12, 2004

Flag on the Play

The Indianapolis Colts making it to the AFC Championship game has football as a metaphor in my mind. I always envy referees who get the excitement of tossing their flags right in the middle of the action whenever a penalty is committed.

I'm often jealous that we don’t have a similar mechanism in daily life that would allow us to "call them as we see them." In that spirit, here's where you might find me throwing a flag on the play:

When speakers start their presentations with the announcement that "I know I’ve got too much information on my Powerpoint slides for you to really read them, but … "

Penalty: Off-Slides. 5 yards.

When planning session participants speak in the plural as if they have been elected as a delegate for a large crowd of individuals apparently suffering from a bad bout of laryngitis: "A lot of people are really upset about … "

Penalty: Unacceptable audible. 5 yards.

For the counter help at just about every fast food restaurant or airport store who are somehow able to look directly at you when you are ready to order, but seemingly have no ability to utter the only vocabulary they really need to master: "May I help you?"

Penalty: Inaction at the line of scrimmage. 10 yards.

For people who are so calculated with every statement they make in order to avoid an ounce of transparency that might let you know their true values, beliefs, or opinions.

Penalty: Face Mask. 10 yards.

For United Airlines and its flight attendants obsession with reminding us with almost every single announcement that they are primarily concerned with our safety. I half expect them to announce they won't be opening carbonated beverages in the aisled any longer because air pressure might cause a can to spray foam upon opening.

Yes, yes, yes, of course we like the fact that United focuses on safety. The problem is that customers rarely get excited about companies who browbeat them with a product feature that is generally assumed to be a part of the bare minimum you get with purchase. Safety is not a distinguishing brand feature that will many customers’ loyalty since it is generally regarded as a given.

Penalty: Ineligible value proposition being overemphasized. 10 yards.

For conference workshop participants who sulk into the room, drop into their seats, fold their arms noisily, paint on their best sullen facial expression, and then use their laser-like eyes to stare down the speaker as if to say, "There's nothing you can do that will get me to consider anything you say or learn a single thing today.

Penalty: ineligible knowledge receiver in the workshop. 5 yards.

Get in the game yourself. What flags would you throw?