Welcome back to the Culture Hacker blog series on how to reprogram the company code and employee engagement. Please catch up on my previous blogs, because they introduce, discuss, and provide insights into how to refresh and evolve a culture by looking at the different mechanisms that impact the mindset and attitude of the staff. The final mechanism we will discuss is leadership: it is one of the most important mechanisms in a great culture.
There are many angles, ideas, and thoughts about leadership. Readers could say that everything we have discussed so far in this blog series is an aspect of leadership, and we would agree. But as a mechanism under our Culture Hacker methodology and for the purpose of this blog, we will focus on how the leader inspires others, because this might be the most powerful mechanism to influence how staff think.
If managers want the team to go all-out in delivering the desired customer experience no matter what their role is, how much they are paid, or what they do, then managers have to inspire team members to want to do it. After years managing staff responsible for all levels of customer experience and service, there is one fact that holds true – leaders cannot make team members take care of customers. It is this point where so many managers fail. Many still operate under the outdated management style that a title means the staff will do whatever they are told, and it does not matter how it is said. This just does not work, especially in roles where staff deal with customers. If managers want the staff to make customers feel good, then the managers have a responsibility to make the staff feel good. If managers want the staff to do something, then managers need to inspire them to want to do that thing.
We have to motivate the team want to do what managers want them to do. As a manager responsible for others, I believe there are four things that leaders can do to personally inspire their team:
- Have passion
- Put in a lot of effort
- Be an expert in the field
- Care about the team
Over the years I have seen these four elements act as the foundation for managers’ abilities to inspire their teams.
As a manager, it all starts with loving the job. Teams are naturally attracted to those with passion, and that passion is contagious. Some managers lose their passion over the years, but many more just never had it; they have progressed in an industry and within a business without really being excited about what they do or who they do it for. Even worse, as they have found themselves in positions of authority, they have not embraced the possibility or responsibility of making a positive difference in others. As a result, they are miserable at what they do, making it impossible to get others excited or inspired.
Without passion managers will never be successful in working through their people. Without passion leaders cannot move others to want to do what they want them to do. Passion is a critical characteristic for all managers to have if they want to positively influence their people. Leadership author Robin Sharma wrote, “Influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work.”
A manager must put in the effort. When we think about what it takes to inspire the team to want to do what we want them to do, a few keys come to mind. Managers must have a willingness to get in and help, be there when it is busy, step in for the staff when customers do not play nice, or just show up and take care of things. Now, please note that we are not suggesting managers should become a fixture in the operation like many are today, because that is counterproductive. Managers must find a balance of time to work in the operation and time to work on the operation. However, getting into the operation, leading by example, showing off skills, and stepping up when things go wrong ensures a level of respect from the team and an ability to inspire.
Managers must have credibility as an expert to inspire others to do their best. They have to know what to do and have the confidence and credibility to inspire others to do it, too. It allows them to excel in the coaching role and in enabling performance. The bottom line is, managers need to know their stuff, which means that when they provide insights, feedback, and ideas, team members are willing and eager to listen. In hospitality, this expertise does not just reside in how to do a particular task, but also how to interact easily with customers, craft great experiences, and manage problems and emotions.
As experts, managers must be committed to learning and have a certain curiosity about how to improve. As such, they look both inside and outside of their industry to see who is doing what, they connect with other experts, and they have an interest to be innovative in their approach. Great managers are always interested in what their people think and in their insights. Managers don’t have to know it all to be an expert, but they do have to be willing to find out who does.
Finally, managers must show that they care about their people. The only way for managers to inspire their teams is to care about them. The old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” applies today more than ever. Show an interest in the people beyond the job they do. Respect them, which means recognize them and what they do. Be approachable and available to the team as required. Caring for the team allows them to be comfortable and confident in their roles and their future. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, “From caring comes courage.” This is exactly what great leaders can give their teams.
Remember that a title does not make a person a leader; the person brings meaning to that title with a combination of passion, effort, expertise, and caring. When these elements are brought together, managers create a situation where they can inspire the team members to want to do what the leaders want them to do.