“Life be not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
For most of us, our daily lives are filled with a variety of interactions. We connect with others in a multitude of ways and through a variety of avenues. Face to face, phone, text, email, internet. Connections that create perceptions, which inevitably become our reality. For the most part, the majority of these interactions serve as representations greater than the individual. As reflections of the very organizations and agencies that those same individuals represent.
Which is evidence to their incredible power. A single individual can create one’s entire perception of an organization, be it positive or negative. And very often it occurs in a matter of minutes. Perceptions are formed and ingrained in the blink of an eye as we go about our daily routines. From the schools our children attend to the places where we shop and do business. Each and every day we are forming perceptions which guide our internal map…of where we go and who we choose to interact with.
However, we as a society have to take responsibility and ownership for the current direction of many of those very interactions. We have made it loud and clear that we appreciate value and savings over service and workmanship. We have become bottom-line driven. Which is why we are not often surprised when service and support are poor or even negative in nature. It is almost expected. As if we have intentionally come to expect less of those we interact and do business with each day.
And it can be difficult to fault leadership for this direction. The focus has been increasingly aimed at doing more with less. Less staff, less support, less resources…and better results. Training and mentorship have become luxuries, rather than necessities to support growth. Each year accountability increases, expectations escalate, and the bottom-line rises. To compensate, we take on more duties, increase our hours, work more days, continually pushing ourselves to do and be more. For these reasons, many of our organizations have become cauldrons brimming over with stressed-out, pressure-filled, worn out workers.
Some would say its the nature of the times…the nature of the beast.
And while we might say it is difficult to lay the fault at the feet of leadership, it will inevitably land squarely on their shoulders. For better or worse, negative or positive, with or without resources and support, the culture of the organization is a leadership responsibility and obligation. A leadership requisite.
While it might not be fair or easy, leaders have the obligation to create and mold the reality of their organization’s culture. According to the authors of the Oz Principle…“Managing your culture so that it produces the results you are looking for has become an essential role of leadership and a core management competency. Neglect it at your peril.”
Let’s highlight that last sentence. “Neglect it at your peril.” How often have we seen an organization’s culture “neglected”?
Very often it isn’t until we run head-on into an organization that gets it, do we realize what we are missing from the many other “neglected” cultures that we interact with. An organizational culture that views the interaction and the relationship as the imperative. Not as the by-product. The value is in the connection, the people they serve, not in the bottom-line. Well-tended organizational cultures understand this, it is bound up in their DNA, it is a vital part of their value-system. A value-system reinforced daily by their leaders, in word and deed. It serves as an expectation, not an exception.
It has been well-chronicled in organizations such as Starbuck’s, Zappos, and Chick-Fil-A. Organizations that work to create a sense of community. A sense of relationship. Organization’s that have well-tended cultures. A sense of decorum and courtesy is obvious in all of their interactions and connections.
In a world where social graces, etiquette, manners, pleasantries, politeness, decency and civilities are diminishing rapidly, organizations with well-tended cultures leave an interaction imprint. An imprint of influence not found or created in “neglected” cultures.
In this day in age where data and knowledge run rampant and best practices are no longer hidden or kept close to the chest – factors such as tone, climate, and atmosphere often serve as the great divide – between well-tended and “neglected” cultures. They serve as today’s influence factors. Organizations such as Starbucks, Zappos, and Chick-Fil-A understand that the experience and the environment is their advantage. They focus first on the relationship. Not only for those that they serve, but for those within the organization as well.
Courtesy, manners, politeness, etiquette seem to be fading quickly from the framework of our society and our organizations. “Excuse me”, “Thank you”, “Pardon me”, and/or “May I help you” serve more as reminders of this than as the norm. Manners, courtesy and etiquette have become an organizational outlier.
So as we head into the new year, it may be worth our time to take an honest look at our organization and determine if we have allowed “neglect” to creep in?
And if so, determine the steps necessary to getting the organization back to having a well-tended culture. One created through interaction, connection, and relationship.