“If you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter if you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” - Jim Collins
Culture comes from what we model, create and allow.
If you missed the article on modeling, you can check it out here. Today, the focus is the connection between what we create and allow in our culture and the quality of customer experience.
What We Create
When it comes to both employee and customer experience, the goal should be to create the kind of culture that people want to be a part of. The kind that keeps people coming back, time and again!
That could mean creating opportunities for people to be part of something bigger than themselves—something bigger than they could be part of on their own. It could mean creating dynamics within teams for others to support each other in—to balance their gifts and weaknesses to accomplish more. It could mean creating an environment that welcomes customers—a space where they feel seen and valued as soon as they walk in the door.
Whatever this looks like for you, it’s important that you recognize your role in creating the culture you want to have.
If you want a culture that celebrates, you have to create celebrations.
If you want a culture that appreciates, you have to create appreciation.
If you want a culture that is fun, you have to create fun around you.
Big or small, you have a responsibility to influence the creation of the culture at your company.
Tony Hsieh, the late CEO of Zappos, created a policy that not only created the culture he wanted at his company, but it protected it, too. When the company hires a new employee, they’re given an unbelievable offer during their training and onboarding: They’ll receive $2,000 if they leave within the first weeks of training. Sounds insane, right? I thought so when I first heard it! I mean, who wouldn’t take that deal?
Well, Tony went on to explain that the company has worked hard to create a specific kind of culture. And ultimately, they want to do whatever they can to preserve it. It’s easier to pay someone $2,000 to leave early on if they aren’t aligned with the purpose and mission of the company; it’s much more expensive to try to keep them in the long run if they don’t fit with the company culture. At Zappos, that $2,000 is money well spent if it allows the company to avoid a shift in culture that they don’t want.
And the best part? The people who really want to be at Zappos–the people who value the culture the company has created–turn the offer down. They walk away from the immediate cash so they can stay on board with a company who has created a culture where they can flourish.
See, there’s value in creating the culture you want people to experience. So what role are you playing to create the culture you want? How are you contributing to the creation of a company culture that changes your customer experience for the better?
What We Allow
And finally, culture is created from what we allow. There’s an established set of values in your company. There’s a culture for how you do things in your business or brand. It’s a standard that everyone needs to live by in order for the culture to remain what it is.
So, when someone isn’t aligned with the values of your culture, what do you do? When you allow them to remain unchecked, the overall culture is at risk. Because when you let a crack come in, it’s going to grow. It’s going to fester. And over time, it’s going to create inconsistency in your culture.
There is nothing more detrimental to a company and customer experience than behavior that doesn’t align with your culture. And when you allow it to continue, you’re ultimately giving it permission to grow. You’re saying it’s okay.
Danny Meyer, the CEO of Shake Shack, talks about the concerted effort he has made to preserve the culture for good. That means, no one gets hired at Shake Shack without aligning to the values they’ve set as cultural standards at the company. These include things like warmth, empathy, intelligence, work ethic, integrity, and self-awareness. If an employee doesn’t exhibit these characteristics and embrace these values, they won’t remain on the team. They likely won’t be hired in the first place! And that’s because Meyer wants to do whatever he can to protect the company culture. He only allows what aligns.
Of course, like we said, you may not be in the position to set the standard of culture at your company. You're not the one setting the values, and you’re not the one hiring and firing to maintain them. That may not be your role, but you still have a responsibility to the company culture. You can choose to be the person who sets the example and holds the line. You can do your part to preserve and protect the company culture.
To do that, consider things like who you’re lifting up and celebrating at work. Are you acknowledging and recognizing people around you who hold up the culture? Are you allowing room for celebration for those who deserve it?
Or what about the kinds of conversations you have? Do you participate in gossip or negative talk about your workplace? Are you allowing that to be a part of your routine at work?
Maybe it’s in the way you respond to customers. Are you leading with kindness, help, and support? Or are you allowing yourself to give in to behaviors and attitudes that exhibit the opposite?
Consider what you’re allowing in yourself and what you’re letting remain in your coworkers or employees. Those things are contributing to the rise and fall of your culture. What you allow is what will ultimately be, so you have to consider what you’re giving permission to grow at work. Because if you feel a shift in culture for the worse, your customers will eventually feel it, too. But if you feel it change for the better? Well, you can believe it’ll be felt on your end and on the customer’s end, too!
The Second Decision
Are we going to get these elements of culture right all the time? Of course not!
My dad used to say, “It’s the second decision that counts.” In other words, there’s grace here! Sometimes the first decision is a mistake, but the one you make right after it determines where you’ll go from there. Will you correct it? Or will you stay on the same path?
You may misstep in what you model at first, but what you model through word and deed after will set the standard. You may do something that doesn’t help create the kind of culture you want once, but what you do after that to shape the culture for the better will ultimately be what sticks. You may allow something to happen that threatens your culture once, but what you do next will demonstrate what you’ll allow in the long run.
So, in honor of my dad, I’ll leave you with these questions as we close:
What decisions have you made to impact your company and customer culture so far?
And which decisions will you make next to maintain the standard of culture?
What will your second decision be?
Because like Dad always says, that’s the one that counts!