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30 – Damit Samit, what a great idea

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —October 7, 2018
Filed in Business storytelling, Podcast

Tags: airport, hard work, initiative, rags to riches

Steve Crompton shares an inspiring, real-life rags to riches story, which proves that anyone can make a difference and achieve their dreams if they take the initiative and are willing to work hard to make it happen. 

airport luggage

Anecdotally Speaking is back! We’ve taken a short hiatus while travelling all over Australia and the world. We’ve returned home with a collection of stories shared by clients and friends we met along the way.

In this episodewe welcome a guest speaker, Steve Crompton, Managing Director of Change Social UK, who completed our Storytelling for Leaders program back in 2013 when he was working for Yammer. Steve shares with us an inspiring, real-life rags to riches story which proves that anyone can make a difference and achieve their dreams if they take the initiative and are willing to work hard to make it happen. The story contains a number of meaningful business points, including; anyone can make a change; great ideas should be given the time, space and resources they require to develop; and don’t expect the world to set up your dreams, make them happen.

If you’d like to watch the video about Samit Saini which was streamed at the Microsoft Inspire event, you can find it here.

For your storybank

In 2017, a man named Samit Saini was working as a security guard in London’s Heathrow airport.

He was on a low wage and he and his family were struggling to make ends meet. He and his wife shared a room with their two young children in his mother’s house.

Regardless of his wage, Samit was very passionate about his work. He had worked at the airport for many years and had held a few different roles.

He had noticed inefficiencies in the way the airport operated. Airport staff relied on pieces of paper stapled to bags to keep track of confiscated items which were sent between departments. These papers were often torn, lost and destroyed in wet weather.

On his own initiative, he looked for ways they could make improvements.

He watched a video on YouTube about Microsoft’s power apps and, without any training, created a way to map the airport’s processes using the technology. He continued to create ways to improve 3 or 4 processes, training himself with YouTube videos in the evenings after work.

He eventually told his boss about his ideas. His boss asked him to take a month off and to use the month visiting the other terminals at Heathrow airport, to see where else the airport could improve and what other ideas he might have.

Samit soon received a call from the airport’s IT department, who asked him to visit the airport’s head office. He was apprehensive, unsure about how the visit would eventuate, but he went along anyway.

The IT department thought his work was incredible. He was invited to join the team permanently. He now runs a team developing power apps for use across the airport.

Early this year, Samit received a call from Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. Satya asked Samit to join him on stage at the Microsoft Inspire conference in Los Angeles.

Podcast transcript

Shawn:  

Welcome to Anecdotally Speaking- a podcast to help you build your business story repertoire. Hi, I’m Shawn Callahan.

Mark:       

And I’m Mark Schenk. And you’ve probably noticed we’ve been off the air for a couple of weeks. This is mainly due to Shawn and I travelling across Australia and across the world. One of the benefits of doing that is that we’ve managed to bump into some clients and friends and we’ve been able to collect some stories to share in the podcast and the first one of those is today.

Shawn:  

I can’t wait to have a good chat about these stories. We’ve got some rippers haven’t we?

Mark:  

It’s been great on our travels hearing so many people who have listened to the podcasts and are using the stories.

Shawn:  

It’s lovely isn’t it?

Mark:

Which is exactly why we do it.

Shawn:    

Ok Mark, you’ve got this one. If you can intro it and then we’ll cut to the story.

Mark:   

In 2013 we did the project for Yammer where we trained customer success managers across the world to use stories to engage with customers more effectively to help them understand how to use Yammer and to share experiences about the use of Yammer so they would do it more.

One of the participants in the London workshop was Steve Crompton. And I caught up with Steve in London at St Catherine’s Dock and had a cup of good coffee and Steve shared a story he uses regularly in change management.

We’ll just cut straight to the story and then talk about why it works and how we can use it in a business context.

Steve:  

Back in 2017 there was a guy called Stamit who was working as a security guard at Heathrow. As you’re flying back to Australia out of terminal 5, imagine you see Stamit saying ‘laptops out, iPod’s out and in the plastic trays’—Stamit was doing that exact job back in 2017.

Stamit was so passionate about working at Heathrow. About 15 years ago he did his work experience at Heathrow. He was working in the baggage reclaim and various other jobs so he was getting his normal security guard wage. He was so passionate about what he was doing at Heathrow.

He started to notice little inefficiencies with paper and how they were getting things done and one evening his saw this YouTube video on something called Power Apps. It’s one of the Microsoft products within the Microsoft products 365 suite.

He started doing a little bit of exploring and he tried looking at what paper-based processes he could almost digitalise. So one of the processes he was really responsible for was, when an item is confiscated they have to write it on a bit of paper with name and description of the item and then it would be stapled to a bag and be sent somewhere.

The problem is the paper can get lost or if it goes out in the rain the ink will run. It was just a highly inefficient way of doing things so Stamit looked at the process and tried to map it into digital technologies using Power Apps.

Mark:     

Is he trained to do this?

Steve:   

Not at all. So he found a YouTube Video and taught himself. It was absolutely astonishing. Then he started looking at other processes in the company within the security team and came up with about three or four processes that he recognised where he could improve. So he took it on himself in the evenings at home to work on mapping these processes digitally.

And the next team meeting he went into see his boss and showed his boss all of this work he’d been doing. His boss thought it absolutely incredible. It would save time and money and really improve customer experience across Heathrow Airports. He said, take a month off out of the security team, out of checking baggage and I want you to go around all of the other terminals and start looking at where we can improve right across the security teams.

Mark:

Obviously he’s made a big impression.

Steve:      

A huge impression; all self-taught on his own initiative of grabbing the opportunity.

So he does as asked seeing where he can use Microsoft Power Apps. To his surprise he gets a call from the IT department back at headquarters and he didn’t know who was calling him, so he goes in for this meeting at head office, a little apprehensive, thinking what have I done wrong? Have I broken anything?

The IT guys say ‘Stamit we’ve heard what you’ve done, this is absolutely incredible, we’d love to take you on as a secondment into the IT team.’ He has no formal training in IT, nothing, just a passion and an interest. Anyway he is fast forwarded to now. He’s basically running a team where he is developing Power Apps right across Heathrow Airport.

But the biggest surprise is what actually happened is earlier this summer Satya Nadella’s core summit.

Mark:   

So this is the CEO of Microsoft?

Steve:  

Yeah, the CEO of Microsoft contact Stamit and says we’ve heard about the work you are doing at Heathrow Airports and I want you to present on stage with me at the Inspire conference at Los Vegas this summer that’s taking place.

I’ll share the link to Stamit’s video with Satya Nadella and he tells his own story probably way better than I can. It’s such an inspiring story to see a guy who’s passionate about his organisation, who took it upon himself and beyond his wildest dreams is now doing something where a few years ago it was unthinkable.

Shawn:    

Hey great story, I love it. It was one of those relatable stories wasn’t it?

Mark:     

I like it because Steve uses it a lot.

Shawn:  

Does he?

Mark:   

He’s told it a number of times.

Shawn:

And he obviously gets a good response from it.

Mark:   

Totally.

Shawn:   

There are a bunch of things that stand out for me in that story as to why it would have a good response. The first thing that jumps out the most is that it’s a relatable story. So many of us have had that experience of walking through and seeing someone like Stamit with ‘laptops and iPads out’, just that phrase is evocative of that moment.

Mark:    

And for me it’s always a bit of a tense moment even though I do it all the time; always wondering whether your bag is going to be stood off to the side there and you have to go through it all and pull it apart.

Shawn:     

Exactly, so I think that gives you something to connect immediately with the story. The other thing with this story is it’s a classic rags to riches story isn’t it?

Mark:  

We love that story.

Shawn:   

And we’ll hear it a million times. Hollywood has made a very good living out of that story right?

Mark:     

In many different forms and as you say this is a very simple, relatable version of rags to riches.

Shawn:    

Yeah, indeed.

Mark:      

One of the things I like about this story and why it works is because, there are rags to riches stories where people get lucky but this is based on initiative.

Shawn:   

Yeah, just hard work.

Mark:

Intelligence, a desire to make a difference and hard work.

Shawn:   

The other thing that stands out for me is the series of events and each one escalates its impact for Stamit. So he starts off with this little idea, goes to YouTube, tries to work it out, gets a few things going and then the support from the manager who says why don’t you take a month off to focus on that effort, and to go around to all the other terminals and check it out.

Mark:   

I’d like to come back to that when we talk about how we could use that story in a business setting. What you’ve said there is a very important lesson from this particular story.

Shawn:  

That’s true.

Mark:

And I also want to pick up on the series of events, it’s like there’s orders of magnitude of change.

Shawn:

Right.

Mark:   

He’s doing security checks and then he’s got some process improvements ideas and then suddenly he’s got a month of working on process improvement, and then suddenly he’s working in IT and then he’s onstage with Satya Nadella—orders of magnitude of change.

Shawn:      

That’s true and it’s surprising; you’re not expecting that at the end.

Mark:   

And it’s an inspiring story.

Shawn:  

It sends the message—anyone can do this, right, if you have the gumption.

Mark:  

Many great features of that story and Steve’s told it a couple of times. He does a pretty good job of telling that story.

Shawn:    

I hear he had a cold though.

Mark:  

He did have a bit of a cold. There were times when he was struggling during the recording.

Shawn:  

How would we use this story? What would make it a business story?

Mark:  

Applying a clear point to the story. I think there are numerous ways you could apply a meaningful business point to that story. The first one for me is anyone can make a change.

Shawn:   

Yeah just get down and do it. You see the opportunity and you make it happen. How many times have you see situations where employees have got to the point (usually through the culture of the organisation) where they just can’t make a difference and they then fall into being a cog in the wheel.

Mark:   

And you could use that story as a way of breaking out of that rut.

Shawn:  

I think there is another overlay to this and that is the quite surprising response of his managers. If you’re a leader who is a yes and … guy or gal who when a colleague comes up with a great idea you give them the space, time and resources to actually make something happen out of it—how motivating would that be?

Mark: 

That would be fantastic. So this application would be when a senior leader is talking to his subordinate leader saying you need to create conditions where people feel safe, comfortable and willing to step up and make a difference.

Shawn:      

I totally agree with what you’re saying there but I would go one step further. Wrapped around that is a mindset, a principle in that organisation that they’re willing to give resources to try things out and experiment.

How many mangers do you know would say I’m going to give you a month off your standard job and put you over here so you can do this other job? It doesn’t happen that often.

Mark:   

No, that’s right. Most managers don’t have that sort of autonomy. The constraints in which they operate are way too tight. I have this number of people, this number of shifts to fill. It does speak volumes about the culture of that organisation.

Again, taking it back to the business application; a senior leader talking to subordinate leaders about creating conditions where this sort of thing is possible.

Shawn:  

Exactly. You’ve got it from Stamit’s perspective, the frontline leader’s perspective, and you’ve got it from an organisational/cultural perspective. Lots of opportunities in that story.

Mark: 

Another business point that could be attached to that is don’t expect the world to set your career; you need to make your own luck. See opportunities, make something happen. Teach yourself as Stamit did. He went on to YouTube and suddenly he’s learning how to use Microsoft Power Apps and being able to do process improvement off the back of his own effort.

Shawn:   

What do you think would make this story even better? Maybe with some small tweaks this could have even more impact.

Mark:

I know how you could have more impact because when Steve told that story before we recorded it he actually added a whole bunch of details that he didn’t feel were appropriate for the recording—things about Stamit being on a low wage, the fact that Stamit had two kids and was living with his wife and two kids in a room in his mother’s house struggling to make ends meet etc. A little bit more about Stamit would have been nice.

Shawn: 

Yeah a little more would have been nice—what does this guy look like, how old is he, what’s his background? Those sort of things paint a little bit more of a picture of Stamit so that we can have a connection to him and really understand what he was up against.

It provides that contrast we love as well; at the other end when he’s speaking at the conference and it’s all changing for him.

Mark:  

And the extent of that surprise that Satya Nadella making that call; that’s pretty cool.

Shawn:

A classic rags to riches is one where you go up and up and up but at some point you have to go down.

Mark:  

A reversal.

Shawn:

A bit of a reversal of fortune. That’s where drama is created. There was a point where there was a little bit of that; when he gets the call to go to headquarters to talk to the IT group. You could feel there was some hesitation, some concern but if it was a real deep concern like he thought his job was on the line that’s something you’d want to retell because that makes the story a lot more interesting.

Mark:      

Indeed and when Steve did tell it Stamit was concerned because he wasn’t sure why he was being called up there. It could have been good or bad. Just amping that up would really raise the stakes in that part of the story.

Shawn:    

Great story and one that could be used very easily. And in fact, it reminded me of other stories.

Mark:

And that’s one of the things that makes that story so good; it reminded me of another story. What did it remind you of?

Shawn:   

I think I was in Sydney and somebody was telling me about a young fellow who was getting treatment at a hospital for a very rare form of cancer and he had to be there every day for this treatment. He must have been around 13 or 14 years old and he noticed his parents had to pay for parking every day and it was costing them a fortune.

So on his own bat this guy decides to put together a campaign to get the laws changed in New South Wales so that they didn’t charge for regular patients at NSW’s hospitals. He changed that law. Not bad eh for a 13 year old?

He got a whole bunch of signatures on a petition, went and saw the Premier, and he ran up against all sorts of problems and no one was listening to him but eventually he ended up with 100s of 1,000s of signatures and made a big change for a lot of people.

Mark: 

Doesn’t that say a lot about that young man’s character? I was just thinking that later in life when he’s applying for jobs and he sends in his C.V that story would be far more powerful than any C.V., any Master’s degree because I would want to employ that sort of character.

Shawn:   

So the Stamit story reminds us of how the little guy can make a difference and that’s the thing that stands out in that story. It can happen for anyone if you want to make it happen. What about some scoring? What are you going to give this, Mark?

Mark:

I’m going to give it a 7. I really like it, very usable, easy to tell.

Shawn: 

I was thinking 7 as well. It’s a good story to have in your back pocket. I could imagine myself telling it.

Mark:

A solid story to have in your story bank. I’d just like to say thank you very much to Steve Crompton for sharing that story and for buying me coffee and wish him well in his business.

Shawn:   

Thanks a lot, Steve, it was great. Well guys, it’s time to wrap things up. Thanks again for listening to Anecdotally Speaking and tune in next time for another episode of how to put your stories to work.

 

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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