About 3 years ago, after 20 years in the service business, I came to some high level conclusions about what I thought were the core “pillars” of business greatness.
And then, we went about the task of making sure all our teammates knew what they were, and why they were important.
Every chance I got, I framed our tangible goals and objectives with them, making sure that they were the foundation of every forward step we took.
Three years later, it was clear that we had chosen our pillars well, for we had made substantial improvements in nearly every measurable aspect of our operations, and, most importantly, drove excellent financial results that exceeded expectations.
What were these magical tenets? Something way out of the box? Revolutionary?
In actual fact, they were about as “mom and apple pie” as they could be, and not very original.
But oh how effective they were, because, we simply put them out there, and stood behind them every single day.
The four pillars were:
- Uncompromised Quality
- Golden Rule Service
- Principled Leadership
- Full Spectrum Accountability
First and foremost, we had to infuse quality in EVERYTHING we did – every interaction and transaction, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. And, even more importantly, we could not sacrifice quality at the altar of expediency (that “sacrifice” phrase became a huge rallying cry as we went along).
We found that “get it done faster” was the biggest impediment to real quality – a misguided mindset that speed was more important than anything else. That’s the drawback in pushing “productivity” too hard. If you can get that mindset reversed in favor of quality, the gains will be huge, and productivity will not suffer whatsoever.
Next, we had to infuse in everyone the idea that we are in existence to serve customers – and to me, that meant going all out to raise the bar on what was considered “great” customer service. We HAD to be there on time. We had to keep our service promises. We had to fully explain our products and services.
Above all else, we needed to follow the “Golden Rule” at all times. Use “please“, “thank you“, and “we’re sorry“. And oh yes, just SMILE. It’s amazing how doing these simple things can be considered extraordinary, but that’s the consumer world we live in right now.
Then there’s leadership – I summed it up this way: we needed to be leaders who led by example, who were involved and empathetic with their teammates, filtered corporate “noise” effectively, inspired trust, looked at and painted the big picture, were good teachers, were humble yet possessed a strong will to succeed, and were part of a unified team.
Lastly, we held ourselves and our teammates accountable to the established values, standards and policies that governed our business conduct. We couldn’t do this sitting in what I call the “comfortable middle” of neither reward nor retribution. We had to lead using the Full Spectrum – it is the foundation of a great team.
Did we do all of this exactly right? I wish. Was it hard? Indeed it was. What were the keys that kept these pillars standing over the 3 years?
- Focus, focus, focus – and more focus.
An apt analogy here is a row boat – and you, as the leader, are the coxswain. You are in charge of the navigation and steering. You must stay absolutely focused on keeping the boat pointed straight towards the finish line. You must have a crew that has “bought-in” to the goals and objectives of the boat, and are willing to take your lead. And then, the team must all be absolutely consistent in their strokes, because any change could mean a loss of speed, or a course deviation.
And so it is in the workplace – those 4 pillars will fall if leaders cannot be focused, consistent, and get total buy-in from their staff (no question, that last one is the hardest, since it often requires tough decisions).
If you and your team can build 4 pillars of your own, and keep them standing for an extended period of time using the 3 keys, there’s no telling what you can accomplish.
Why not go for greatness?