Keynote speaker and bestselling author, Simon Sinek, tells a story about an experience he had at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas. Sinek had stopped at the lobby coffee bar for a cup of coffee, and there he met a barista who was charming, engaging, funny, and just a joy to be with. Sinek asked him if he likes his job, and the barista responded, “I love my job.” Sinek asked him what the Four Seasons does to make him love his job, and the barista said, “Throughout the day, managers will walk passed and ask how I’m doing and if there anything I need . . . and not just my manager, but all managers. I feel supported here. I feel I can be myself here.” Then he confided in Sinek, “I also work at Caesar’s Palace.” “There,” he said, “the managers watch us to make sure we’re doing everything right and catch us if we do anything wrong. “There,” he continued, “I just try to keep my head down, avoid getting in trouble until the end of the day, collect a paycheck, and go home.” So at the Four Seasons, the barista is exposed to enlightened, inspirational leadership while at Caesar’s Palace, it’s just the opposite . . . misguided, oppressive leadership. As a result, guests at the Four Seasons are treated to a barista who is charming, engaging, funny, and just a joy to be with while guests at Caesar’s Palace, who encounter the very same barista, experience a guy who’s just trying to make it through the day. How about your customers? Are they getting a Four Seasons experience or a Caesar’s Palace experience? For more on this, please continue reading below.
“We respond to the environments we’re in. If you get the environment right, you get the right behavior.” ~ Simon Sinek
Logically, it follows then that if you get the environment wrong, you’re not going to get the behavior you want.
Establishing an organization’s environment is the job of leadership. So when an organization is not getting the behavior it wants from its people, the blame lies squarely on the doorstep of the organization’s leaders.
There are lots of different leadership styles that will produce the behaviors an organization wants, and an equal number of leadership styles that won’t. But let’s just look at the two leadership styles in Sinek’s example of the Four Seasons Hotel and Caesar’s Palace.
- At Caesar’s, the leaders are acting like beat cops patrolling their areas of responsibility to make sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do, and catching those who are not. That sets up an atmosphere of distrust where the employees do not feel supported, do not feel their boss has their back, and in fact, believe their boss will throw them under the bus whenever anything goes wrong. Understandably, employees in that environment will say to themselves, “We’re going to be suspected, distrusted, and scrutinized no matter what we do, so our best course is to keep our heads down, avoid doing anything to attract attention to ourselves, and just make it through the day.” So if you want a subdued, submissive, spiritless staff, Caesar’s shows the way to get it.
- At the Four Seasons, the leaders are acting like mentors and coaches who genuinely want the people in their care to be successful. There, when a manager asks an employee, “How’s it going?”, it’s not a throw away question. The manager honestly wants to know if everything is OK, if the employee needs anything, or if the employee needs help. That’s not to say that employees there are treated with kid gloves who are never disciplined. However, when discipline is required, it’s delivered in the “tough love” spirit of helping an employee to do the things necessary to be successful. So if you want your employees to feel supported, to feel that their boss has their best interests at heart . . . if you want them to be willing to stick their necks out once in a while in the name of better customer service . . . the Four Seasons leadership approach may not be the only way to create the environment you want, but it’s a pretty darn good way.
NOTE: Among other things, good leadership is dependent on consistency. There isn’t a single magical thing you can do right now today that will establish your credentials as a great leader. Good leadership is the accumulation of a lot of little things, done consistently, over the long haul. Being on time to a meeting just once isn’t going to do much for your status as a leader. Always being on time to meetings for weeks, and months, and years, will. Following through on one commitment may not even be noticed by those around you, but always following through on each and every commitment will be noticed. If you ask one person in your care, just one time, “How’s it going?”, that won’t do much to burnish your image as a leader. But if you ask that question regularly to all the people in your care, and if you take the time to listen intently to their answers, over time your stock as a leader will definitely go up.
We respond to the environments we’re in. As your organization’s leader, it’s up to you to establish the values that are consistent with the environment you want, and consistent with the behaviors you expect from your people. Do you want your customers to get a Four Seasons Hotel experience from your people or a Caesar’s Palace experience? It’s a conscious choice that is yours to make.