The lack of civility, the entitlement and coddling in the workplace today is astounding; and it’s not Millennials: it’s older Gen-Ys and Baby Boomers. My adage is “When did the Golden Rule become the exception?” because it sure seems like it is. That’s why I think we need love in the workplace.
Bear with me: what we need is not love in the romantic sense, but love in the 2,500-year-old+ Aristotelian Greek Classic Virtue sense:
- Eros: passion, desire, devotion. Think of Zappos and Nordstrom’s view of customer service or Apple’s focus on design
- Philos: friendship, respect. Think of teams, collaboration, earning/keeping trust and talent
- Agape: sacrifice, empathy, humility. Think of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes — your customer, employee, and supplier
Let’s look at three key players in your ecosystem: customers, employees and suppliers.
As Steve Denning says, first and foremost, it’s all about delighting your customer.
Do you really think about your customers, their needs, issues, problems — from their point of view or from yours transposed on them? There were two companies in Colombia using text messaging for recruitment (text messaging is widely available, the Internet is not). The first one simply texted the job seeker a location and time, nothing about the employer, job details and so on. They weren’t very successful because most of the job seekers had to choose between paying for the bus to get to the interview or eating a meal (all for a job they knew nothing about in a potentially dangerous part of the city). The second company looked at the forces impeding people from getting jobs — such as access to and cost of transportation, information about the job, and so on. This company addressed those issues, and it is growing.
When was the last time you tried to discover, order, track the order, receive, unpack, get rid of the packaging, use/install, call customer service and dispose of what your company makes? How easy was it? Would you “hire” your company again based on your experience? Do you really understand all the forces impacting your customers — time, money, effort, convenience and so on — and how you can make those easier for them? Think about the buying experiences you’ve loved. What is it that makes it so delightful? What are you passionate about doing for your customers? Where can Eros and Agape apply?
We all know happy, engaged employees are more productive and therefore more able to delight your customers. Studies have shown this time and again, yet few companies really make this a strategic priority. The command-and-control days are over. Provide your employees with the freedom to make their own choices, including those that affect your customers. If you can’t trust them with that, you’ve got bigger problems. This may sound paradoxical with my initial comments on entitlement and coddling, but it’s not. Giving your people a healthy working environment, physically and psychologically (which means accountability), brings out the best in them. Coddling and tolerating inappropriate performance and behaviour undermines everyone.
When you walk the halls or factories of your organisation (which I hope you do), what do you see and hear? Smiles? Laughter? People helping each other? Or not? Would you want to work for your company in any of the other positions and levels? Would you want to work for you? Would you want to be treated the way you treat your people? How do you, will you, excite and engage your people? How can you encourage their Eros and Agape for customers and Philos for each other?
I can’t count how many times my clients complain about how their customers treat them. Issues are plentiful around payments, changes to orders, delivery dates, misaligned expectations, and so on. Many of these same people then turn around and treat their suppliers the way their customers treat them. So much for the Golden Rule. Similarly to how you treat your people, if you treat your suppliers with respect and honesty, odds are you will have a good working relationship in which you can align both sets of interests and both grow. One of my clients discovered new applications for one of their key suppliers, significantly growing both their businesses and opening up brand new market spaces.
Have you ever sat down with your suppliers and understood their business issues and how you could help them help you? Would you want to be a supplier to your company? Do your people communicate in a helpful way with your suppliers? Are there ways you can help your suppliers get into new markets and grow their business? What are your suppliers passionate about? Where can you help them supply to you with the Philos and Agape you’d like your customers to show you?
Love is critical in today’s workplace; but it doesn’t mean tolerating any type of performance or behaviour, and it doesn’t mean ignoring serious issues. It does mean understanding your customers’ needs even better than they do, from their world, tapping into your people’s passions for delighting customers, letting teams make their own decisions and encouraging collaboration and making your suppliers part of your ecosystem instead of indentured servants.
What will you try this week to show love at work?