Developing Your Company Ethos With Strong Leadership

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Working in management, you observe contrasting business and management styles. One observation that holds true in every organisation I’ve ever worked in is that influence flows from the top down and attitudes, ethics and standards are all created at the top.

Whatever characteristics are displayed at the top levels of an organisation will reflect in the middle level managers and then to the support staff right down to the trainees in the business.

Some organisations Owners and top level management have a really poor customer service attitude – almost as if they would say ‘there’s plenty more where they came from’.

It always struck me that so many staff within that organisation would be affected by that attitude and then repeat the same sentiment, even if that wasn’t their way of thinking prior to joining the organisation.

As a manager/owner it’s imperative to outline your company ethos, and display it clearly to all staff. The listed items should then act as a check list in everything the company does. A way of testing decisions and also providing employees with an accurate ‘action plan’ as they test their daily demands against the companies expected ethos outcomes.

This is particularly important in service related industries where customers concerns and/or complaints are often wide and varied. Your Ethos Statement should act as an enabler of action for those staff members. They should feel like they can take some responsibility for their decisions knowing the decision that has been made fits in with the company ethos, and therefore is reasonable to believe that it is the right decision.

Here’s a quick litmus test.

As an example, if this was a shortlist of your Ethos & Values;

  • Client Focused – We are committed to understanding the changing needs of our clients and our business will evolve in accordance to their requirements.
  • A People Business – Our staff and professional network are our most valuable assets. We believe in creating a relationship based on support and understanding for their personal and business needs.
  • Integrity – We operate with the utmost integrity in all areas of our business.
  • Environment – We believe in achieving a sensible and sustainable balance between business and the environment.
  • Dependability – Our clients can depend on us delivering to our promise every time.

and a client called through to your customer service representative with a problem stating that they were previously told by the sales department via email that they would receive their product by Friday, however it hasn’t arrived. What should the course of action be of that staff member?

  1. Apologise for the inconvenience and explain that the delivery driver was sick for 2 days so there is now a backlog of deliveries, but they should receive it very soon.
  2. Explain that the sales person should not have promised delivery by Friday as it’s company policy not to give fixed delivery dates as you outsource delivery.
  3. Tell the client that due to the late payment for the product they shouldn’t expect your business to honour their commitments also.
  4. Test the problem against the Ethos of the company and see that “Our clients can depend on us delivering to our promise every time” has not been met so the only expectation the client should have is also found in our Ethos statement “We operate with the utmost integrity in all areas of our business”. They can therefore address the problem immediately and work towards rebuilding trust with the client by way of various company concessions that may be made available.

The obvious answer is (4), but you would be surprised at how often I’ve heard people tell me they came up with 1, 2 or 3.

So how do you know if your staff ‘get it’?

It simply isn’t good enough to plaster a company Ethos page up in the Kitchen or Photocopy room and expect staff to act on it. It must be taught, then reinforced as a continual effort to align your employees mindset to that of the Owners and/or senior managers.

How often should you teach and train your staff the company Ethos?

Only you can be the judge of that. But you should be mindful that your actions are teaching your staff every day. During meetings, troubleshooting problems – no matter when you’re at work – you’re the living example they are following.

Lessons from Mrs Qin

Mrs Qin owns the largest restaurant in China which has over 1300 staff for their 5000 seat restaurant. Every morning all the staff are gathered before the Owner (Mrs Qin) and sing and chant various songs and sayings that convey their attitudes towards their customers, their service standards, their work ethic, their belief in the restaurant and their total commitment to service.

You’ve just got to love the Chinese and their innovative ways!

Owning a business requires strong leadership. You’re being measured, evaluated and judged daily based on your decisions and actions.

If you haven’t already done so create an Ethos Statement that reflects your values. Then empower the statement by forming ways of testing job roles against it. Be sure to revisit and revise when necessary but most of all, drum it into the minds of your employees so they could almost sing, chapter and verse, the company vision and commitment to customer service.