Leading from the Front

Stand up sign

I was waiting outside a client’s office for it to open recently, somewhere back from a small group of people who worked there.  The doors opened, everyone went in and, as I approached, I noticed litter near the door. Naturally I picked it all up and placed it in a nearby bin.  Why did I do that, why did I feel it was important to do, and why didn’t the people who work there do it themselves?

It’s the same sort of thing when you visit the toilets/washrooms in a company.  Why hasn’t anyone noticed that the loo roll has run out and done something about it, or there’s nothing to dry your hands on, or sometimes much worse?

How can businesses succeed when the people working there don’t care? Because if they don’t care about litter outside the entrance door, or the toilets being in a poor state, then how can they possibly care sufficiently about the quality of the work they produce, or the levels of customer service and satisfaction they provide?  And don’t tell me that ‘they do a decent job’, because doing a ‘decent job’ is not what a business needs – it needs people that do exceptional jobs, that really care, that go the extra mile every time.

So how can you create the culture transition in your business so that everyone who works for you does really care, is completely committed to business success, and understands what they need to do and how they need to behave in order to maximise success?

Well firstly you have to recognise and accept that the reason the culture is currently like it is, is your fault. No-one else is to blame.  You define the business culture, like it or not, and if you don’t think about it, decide how you want it to be and then shape it accordingly, it’ll happen by accident. And you won’t fix it by calling everyone into a meeting, dressing them down, and telling them how you want them to behave.  Fat chance of that succeeding!

Secondly, follow the 3 R’s of leadership:

Respect.  To gain real respect from the people who work in your business you must demonstrate your respect for them.  Treat them as real people, in exactly the same way as you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. Be honest and open with them, be interested in them, share your business goals and plans, keep them up to date with what’s happening, explain what their role is in helping achieve the business’s goals and what your expectations of them are.

Role-model.  You are the no 1 role model in your business.  People who respect you will watch what you do and the way you do it and if they think it’s good, they’ll copy you. Seeing you pick up the litter or tidy the toilets will allow them to realise how important it is, and if the boss is prepared to do it, then it’s quite reasonable to expect everyone else to do so as well.

Recognition.  If you’re not familiar with Hertzberg’s motivation theory, have a quick read up.  Recognition doesn’t necessarily cost anything, yet used appropriately it is one of the best methods of rewarding and motivating great performance.

OK, there are plenty more R’s I could have included here, such as Responsibility and Recruitment, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and we’ve all got to start somewhere.  Now, where’s that toilet brush…?

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