Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: What Does Your Customer Want?

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

We have established that we must change our culture and identify our customer. However, if we stop here, we are almost certain to miss the mark of success. We must identify what our customer expects of us. It is not enough to assume that we know what their needs are based on previous experience. We must engage our customer and allow them input into our culture. This is can be hard because as leaders of service departments we like to think we know what people need from us and how to best provide it to them.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

While it may seem reasonable to assume we know what they need, we are not living in other leader’s shoes each day. We do not know the challenges their team is facing. If we work together with them to identify how we can best serve them, we will see improvement in key indicators in each department. Service to patients will be better. Outcomes will improve. Satisfaction will rise. Working with the departments you serve produces better results than working for the departments you serve. The difference is having the humility to ask how we can best serve instead of assuming we already know.

How can you do it?

Engage your colleagues. Reach out to the leaders that your team serves. Ask them what is working and what isn’t? Ask them if your efforts are in alignment with their goals?

Make it a habit. We must understand that the dynamics of our engagement is likely changing. Set up a regularly meeting with these leaders to make sure that you are still aligned in your efforts. I would suggest that you start by committing to this discussion quarterly. From there you can see if this is too often or not often enough.

Listen. Good leaders identify opportunities for improvement and try to fix them. When your colleagues ask you a questions or share a request, what they may be saying is that our process can be improved. Listen to what they have to say and see if it is an outlier or the result of a process that needs improved.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Define Your Customer

Justin Clark, MBA

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

I suppose the biggest challenge to doing this is just assuming that you already know. It is easy to get stuck in a habit or pattern and not take the time to continually re-evaluate who your customer is. It is also easy to define who the obvious customers are, but look past some of the less obvious ones. For example, as a support service at the hospital, we would say that patients are our customers. However, we must also acknowledge that our co-workers are our customers too. If we don’t properly meet their needs, then we can’t expect them to have everything that they need to take care of our patients.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Workplace dynamics are constantly changing. As technology advances, the way we provide care to patients is changing as well. As a support service, it is imperative that we have a clear understanding of who our customers are. If we don’t know this, how could we possibly construct a culture to best serve them?

How can you do it?

Honestly assess who you’re serving. Take a step back from the day to day operations to evaluate who you and your team are serving.

Ask your team. It might not always be obvious to you as a leader who your team is serving. Involve them in defining who your customers are. After all, they are the ones going out each day and engaging with them.

Clearly define the customer. Once you have done your assessment and solicited the input of your team, define the customer for your entire team. Don’t assume that everyone understands who they are serving. In our team, we clearly articulate that we are here for patients and staff. That our responsibility is to serve each group.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Where to Start

Justin Clark, MBA

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

There can be many barriers to developing and sustaining a service culture. As in my case, the people you lead could provide support services (Maintenance) to the primary service (Healthcare) of your business or institution. My reflections will be shared from this perspective. I will call it, leading from the second seat. We aren’t providing the core service of our business, but without us, the core services aren’t sustainable.

I believe the most common leadership barrier to starting this process is feeling overwhelmed about where to start. Culture itself can be a huge obstacle. Unless you are starting from scratch, you have to change culture. As leaders, we all know that as much time and effort as it takes to start from scratch to build culture, it can be measurably more difficult to successfully reshape culture.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The case for doing it is simple. If you don’t have the right culture, you will have the wrong one. Culture is something that we all have. Every organization. Every department.  We either actively shape culture or we passively allow culture to be shaped. As leaders, the burden to help shape the culture starts with us.

How can you do it?

Establish the priority of culture. Recognize how important culture is. Your team will always have one. As a leader, you are responsible for making sure it is the right one.

Evaluate the current culture. Most likely, you don’t have the option of doing a “full reset” on the culture of your team or your organization. You need to evaluate your current culture and see how it aligns with your mission. Identify the cultural elements that are worth holding onto and those that should be extruded.

Examine other cultures for best practices. How do your peers and colleagues create/shape culture? Where do they start? Leverage these resources to help you in your journey to creating and sustaining a service culture.

 

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Communicate Often

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

Communication can be more difficult than we realize. We have an abundance of tasks and projects and we get busy completing them, sometimes failing to communicate often enough to stakeholders. We also get busy completing tasks and checking items off our lists that we sometimes fail to give the team the details they need to complete the project efficiently. Each person on your team communicates differently and has different expectations for how they prefer to communicate and this can be taxing to maneuver with your already expanding calendar.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Communication is the key to avoiding many of the leadership mistakes we have discussed over this series. The communication of details keeps projects on time and on track to meeting customers’ expectations. People have a better understanding of projects, situations, and goals when you communicate effectively and often. Communication often saves time because of the team’s better comprehension of the project.   Communication can ease fears, stress, and can help alleviate problems before they arise.

How can you do it?

Set expectations for communication. Have conversations up front with key stakeholders and team members about how they prefer to communicate.   Ask for an agreement and commitment to continued communication and to let you know if you fail to communicate to them effectively in the future. Open dialogue is key to resolving misunderstandings when they occur and preventing them in the future.

Make communication with stakeholders a part of your task lists and check lists. This way you are always setting aside time to provide progress updates and seek input from interested parties.

Determine how your team members prefer to communicate and set aside time to communicate to them on a regular schedule. Your team will understand that even if you are busy, you have set aside this time for them on a regular basis to discuss details, ask questions, and go over projects.

 

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Say No (Sometimes) & Follow Through

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

For new leaders, it can be very difficult to say no. We are trying to prove ourselves. We want to earn the respect of our colleagues and our teams. We commit to tasks and projects before we confirm plausibility at times to show that we can do it all. Our drive will often spread us a bit thin and we take on too many projects simply to prove that we are capable of conquering the world. However, we all have limits and we need to learn to recognize them and respond accordingly.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Saying no to certain projects or extending the time for completion can really help to manage expectations and to plan our tasks out appropriately. We do a disservice to our teams when we take on too many projects. Taking a moment to think critically about our task lists and determine the plausibility of a project within those lists will help us to deliver on our commitments. We don’t want to become the leader who overpromises and under delivers. If you say no when you need to, say yes with clear expectations, and follow through on our commitments, we build trust within our teams, credibility with other leaders, and we meet our drive and personal needs by completing tasks and projects in a timely manner.

How can you do it?

Review your task list and your teams’ task lists regularly. If you don’t know what is on your plate and your teams’ plates, you may commit to something that is unreasonable. You must be familiar with your tasks and projects to ensure you add additional tasks and projects with care and thought.

Say no when appropriate and yes with clear expectations. It is okay to say “no” or “I can’t do that right now, but what I will be able to do is…” Always offer an alternative and explain why the project or task isn’t feasible or why it cannot be completed at this time. Outline clear expectations for when you may be able to complete the task or launch the project or what you can do to meet your customer’s need.

Do what you say you are going to do. The best way to build trust and credibility is to always do what you say you are going to do. That means you must focus on the aforementioned items and follow through on your commitments. If you are unable to meet a commitment or deadline, other leaders should understand with clear communication to them about the issue. Your commitment to follow through will build a reputation that will allow you some leeway when things don’t go as planned.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Stop Overreacting

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

This has become a theme in this series, but it is an important topic to remember throughout leadership. We have all been there. A project doesn’t go smoothly. A result isn’t meeting our expectations. An event doesn’t go as originally planned. We believe we are entitled to react however we want. We often get annoyed when things don’t go our way. We sometimes choose to whine to others and aimlessly vent rather than face the issue at hand. We do all of these things because it’s easier and because we want others to know how difficult our job is and all the barriers we have to overcome. Unfortunately, none of these behaviors help solve the problem.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

We exist to lead our team to organizational goals, not to make mountains out of mole hills. Our desire for perfection is a good thing, but we have to understand that there will be bumps along the road, or mole hills for that matter. When we overreact, we create tension and stress on our teams. Our teams look to us for direction and guidance and if we are overreacting to the situation, we aren’t seeing our options clearly and we clearly aren’t guiding our teams. We have to keep ourselves calm and focused. When we do, we have a much better shot at jumping over the mole hill with our teams and reaching the goal together. Our teams will respect us more if we react in the right way and lead them to success.

How can you do it?

Take a moment of pause. We discussed this topic in a previous blog post earlier in the series. Often, all we need is a moment or two to seek clarity and a few deep breaths to see the options in front of us more clearly.

Seek your team’s input on how to solve the issue at hand, as last week’s blog post talks about. When they have a say and active involvement, the project is more successful. Hold a special team meeting to address the concerns you have about a project. You may find that your team already has everything taken care of and your reaction and worry is all for nothing.

Follow up big projects, events, and tasks with a wrap up meeting. You can talk about what worked, what didn’t, and plan for an even more successful undertaking next time.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Seek Your Team’s Input

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE & Eric Kephas, MA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

As individuals, we want to do what we want to do. We want to make a plan, take our own course of action, and follow our own path to get the result we are trying to achieve. It takes additional time to seek input from others. It may slow our pace. We may get feedback or input that we don’t want to hear.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

As a new leader, you will find that you need help from others to get organizational results. When your team has bought into the plan and given input, it creates more positivity around the project and more ownership over the final product. When you seek input from your team, the team grows and gets better. Even if the final decision isn’t what some team members desire, they will be more apt to assist and complete the project if they are given an opportunity to voice their thoughts. Also, you can remind your team that they have input into decision making and can help improve the organization by speaking up.

How can you do it?

Meet with your team regularly. Ask for feedback around projects and assign roles and make changes for your team as a result of their feedback.

On your checklists, add a step that includes seeking input from your team. This will help remind you to take this critical step and form the habit of seeking input.

Remember to follow up with employees when you have used their input to make an improvement. Thank them for their valuable feedback and encourage them to continue speaking up.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Accountability is Key

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

We would rather go back and do something ourselves than hold someone accountable. Hasn’t that always been the easy way out? We fear holding others accountable. We want to be friends with our coworkers and build good relationships, and we fear that accountability will ruin that comfort zone for us. It’s hard to have difficult conversations with people at work and in our personal lives, so we often avoid those conversations and look for other ways to resolve the issue.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

We simply cannot do everything ourselves. It’s impossible. So we must rely on others to assist us in producing results. Results. If we influence our teams to focus on specific results we are trying to achieve AND we do it together as a team, it is the most rewarding experience as a leader. Having respectful and kind, but difficult conversations can actually build even better, stronger relationships with our colleagues. When staff overcome the challenge and reach the result, our employees feel accomplishment and more respect for us having had that conversation, even if they didn’t feel it at the time of the talk.

How can you do it?

To hold ourselves and each other accountable, we need a dashboard. We can use this method for more than organization wide and department dashboards. Dashboards have no required size and can be used to measure success on all size projects. Select your key measures for your goal and use a dashboard to guide you.

Documentation is always key. We should document key conversations, even if we just keep the documentation in our files to refer back to if needed.

Ask for a commitment from your employees on the process. Give valuable feedback along the way.

Don’t avoid the conversations. You will be able to produce more results by holding your team accountable and focusing on results together.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Hit the Pause Button

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

We sometimes react too quickly and/or too bluntly without considering all sides or the consequences our reaction may cause. We have a million things to do so we are often in a hurry. We want to make decisions quickly and get things done. We believe we need an immediate response, when in reality, as leaders we have time and the responsibility to prepare a thoughtful response or stance.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

All of us have the power to recognize when we are aroused and to shut our mouths when we recognize it. And the best leaders actually do this. We do have control over our reactions. Not just anger, but any reaction that may be less than desirable. When you are emotionally aroused, you cannot see your options clearly. Taking a moment to clear your head and respond appropriately will result in better outcomes and better relationships for you and your team.

How can you do it?

We can walk away, hit the pause button, or take some deep breaths. A moment of pause will save you the misfortune of having to say sorry later.

Talk to a trusted colleague or mentor to help guide you to the right decision. Detached people can see your options better than you can and help to lead you to the right one.

Reflect on your options and prepare a thoughtful response. Document this for all involved to review and commit.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Embrace the Loss of Control

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

When we become leaders for the first time, we are typically inclined to do what we have always done, but leadership requires a different approach from us. As an employee, we take on projects, we charge through tasks, and ultimately, we do our best to complete tasks in a timely manner. We often receive feedback on our work for a job well done and we enjoy the praise we receive. The truth is that most leaders are recovering control freaks. When you are only responsible for your own work, this is a great approach. It can really become a problem when we try to control everything as leaders. Leaders can influence, but cannot control.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If you attempt to control others to get things done, you will fail. At some point, on no particular timeline, failure will be a part of your future. It’s much easier to influence than it is to control. You will lessen the amount of time spent, thought, and worrying on projects. You will get more done and your team will be more successful. You will learn more from your team and grow as a leader by opting to use influence to guide progress, rather than fail at your attempts to control.

How can you do it?

Stop blaming others and focus what you can do to be your best. Your job as a new leader is to be the best you can be so you can help your team be the best they can be.

Focus on fielding the best team and not on trying to be the team star. The better your team is, the bigger the reward for you as a leader. Your team’s success is the reward now. You have the opportunity to work in conjunction with others to help them fulfill goals and build a stronger workplace and culture.

Focus on influencing others rather than controlling others. Give them advice, feedback, and assistance when they need it, but allow them some independence. You will build a strong team by influencing them and trusting them than by trying to control every move they make.

Learn to place trust in your team. You need your team’s help now. You can’t do everything. You must delegate to be successful. Get to know your team, their strengths, and long term goals. You will be able to utilize each team member effectively and build your trust in them to see a project through from beginning to end successfully.