As it appeared in the Daily Nation on February 13th, 2018
How would you describe your organizational culture? I often pose this question to company executives and to entrepreneurs. Many are hard-pressed to describe their culture. Others describe it in an amorphous way. However, the few that have been intentional about their desired culture, describe it with ease, and live it daily. Smart company executives and entrepreneurs know that organizational culture is within their control. They also recognize that culture gives them the much-needed sustainable competitive advantage. With this knowledge, they do not leave culture to chance they build it and they sustain it!
An organizational culture resides in the hearts and souls of its leadership and the staff. Culture is intangible but it is seen in the set of shared beliefs, in how the leadership behaves, in how work gets done, in how staff communicate with one another and with customers. Culture is lived in our everyday actions and is seen in our everyday decisions. A main indicator of a culture of service excellence is the overall staff and customer experience. Culture plays a critical role in shaping the beliefs, attitudes, actions of both the leadership and the staff. Culture makes staff behave in a certain way, both desirable and undesirable. If service excellence is not a way of life in your organization, or if you have inconsistencies in how staff behave and in your service delivery, you need to reconsider the tenets of your culture.
Building and sustaining a culture of service excellence takes time and effort. At the starting point is a leadership that is completely sold-out to the connection between service and profits. Such a leadership not only focuses on external service excellence but also recognises the paramount role of internal service excellence. The leadership defines what the desired internal and external service excellence looks like and supports it. Without internal service excellence, such a leadership knows that it is difficult to achieve external service excellence. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group believes that there is no magic formula for great company culture; he says that the key is to treat your staff how you would like to be treated. The question though is “how many of us are even clear about how we would like to be treated?” Building a culture of service excellence is a leadership responsibility. Sustaining the desired culture is everyone’s responsibility.
Leaders need to make service excellence a top priority. They must support their teams in the delivery of top-notch service throughout their organization. Building and sustaining a culture of service excellence involves an amalgamation of many aspects of the organization. It means recruiting right, having open and honest conversations internally about service, having performance measures and holding each other accountable. This means that everyone must own and live the desired organizational culture.
If your employee act differently, the problem is in your organizational culture. Start the process of fixing it today, take some action, define and communicate your desired attitudes and behaviours and enable your team to uphold them. On a different note, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day; why not spread some Love within our organizations and with all that we interact with!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy