I was thinking recently about how sad it is that we have to have training to get people to behave with common decency, a level of compassion, and a desire to help others.
Service, in most places, is pretty poor and the attitudes you get are for the most part just bad. I mean you step up to a counter and you get no eye contact or no smile or an indifferent tone that seems to say, “I could care less…and if you’re not happy, there’s somebody else behind you.”
How have we gotten to this place? Why have we descended into indifference and lack of care for customers and quality of work?
I think we can start at the top of the chain, and I mean the highest levels. Just think of what we see in our national leaders, disrespect, disregard, lying, cheating, stealing, you name it, and that’s just politics, think about other “heroes” that people look to as models. Sports stars with over-blown egos who cheat on their sport and their families, celebrities with all manner of issues that are flaunted as if they’re a good thing, TV shows that give voice to adult brats who mistreat others and have infantile levels of emotional intelligence, is it any wonder the influence this has?
What I am getting at is not some self-righteous conservatism – I am as broken as anyone and have my fair share of challenges and flaws – but rather, our need for leadership models who show us what we should and can be. While this is needed in all areas of society, it has become critical in the workplace; if we want the quality of service to improve, we desperately need leaders who demonstrate what it is to care, respect, and treat people with dignity. This means C-suite executives demonstrating it for their managers and managers demonstrating it to their front-line employees so that front-line employees will deliver great service to customers. It ultimately means modeling to your employees the actions you want them to display to the people they serve. In other words, treating your employees the way you want them to treat your customers.
Why all of this though? Why not just lay down the law and demand the way you want it to be? Well, when I was a kid, I built model planes, cars, etc., and whenever I was looking at the instructions and couldn’t make out exactly where a piece fit, I would pick up the box top because the box top had a picture of the finished model on it which helped me to get the clarity that made all the difference.
Interestingly, everyday life is not much different. When people have models, box-top pictures, of how things are supposed to look, they get clarity and this clarity can really help to define how things should be done. If you’re in disbelief, think about it, how many times when asked to perform a task have you looked for an example from someone who’s done something similar? How many classes have you been in where the teacher showed you a sample?
And this need isn’t limited to tasks, it is also necessary when it comes to behavior. People need models for how to act, and when they get bad ones, they act badly as referenced above. However, when they get good models, they can begin to behave in better ways; they can begin to be the best versions of themselves. The challenge in the workplace is that the box-top picture for employees is the leaders they see every day and many of those leaders are poor box-top pictures, certainly poor pictures of what it is to serve and behave well.
So how can you change that? How can you be a better box-top picture for your team? It’s not that hard really; you just have to move from “do as I say not as I do” to “I am going to give you what I expect you to give others.” In time, and with some diligence, your organization will be transformed from indifference to engagement and caring, which is what you and your customers want, right?
People are bombarded by poor models all day long and you can be a good one. What will you do today to lead the charge and be a model, a good box-top picture, of what you want things to be?