“Character is destiny.”
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that some 2,500 years ago and, since that time, nothing has shaken the fundamental truth of his statement.
While we use the word, “character” to describe a person, I believe that the words “company culture” are that word’s parallel in the business world. So, to paraphrase Heraclitus, I would say, “Your company culture is your company’s destiny.”
If you build a strong and healthy company culture, your company’s destiny will be strong and healthy.
While there may be many attributes that could define a company’s character, perhaps one of the most obvious would be the way leadership treats employees. If you’ve read some of my work on the internal customer, you may remember something I call the Employee Golden Rule, which is:
Treat employees the way you want the customer treated – maybe even better.
I’m typically not a fan of the word “rules.” When I ask people about rules, most will say they are created to prevent some type of behavior. When we’re children, we are told to “Never do this,” or “Don’t do that.” We learn to obey the rules. Every once in a while I meet someone a little more optimistic (such as myself) that feels that the way some rules are worded can actually help make good things happen. The Golden Rule that many of us learned as children, which is essentially to treat others the way you want to be treated, is one of those positive rules. In the corporate world, the Employee Golden Rule is about creating a positive work environment. And, just as our parents may have taught us the Golden Rule, in business it is leadership’s responsibility to teach, preach, and demonstrate the Employee Golden Rule.
If top management berates those in middle management, leadership cannot expect line-level employees to be well-treated by their direct supervisors – even if there is something in a mission statement somewhere that makes the proper treatment of employees a high priority. The do as I say, not as I do approach doesn’t work.
And when employees in your company are treating one another poorly, it will eventually be felt on the outside by the customer. It becomes a domino effect. Bad behavior begets bad behavior.
The good news is that many of our most successful companies have been modeling the Employee Golden Rule for years, proving that it is a sound strategy for achieving a stunning level of customer service. I often write and speak about companies like American Express, Ace Hardware, and Southwest Airlines.
Anyone who has interacted with these companies almost immediately senses that there is something “different” about their employees. Southwest Airlines is among the perennial leaders in all the various ratings that airlines receive. It is also one of the most financially successful in a very difficult industry. Its success can be traced back to its co-founder, Herb Kelleher, who always put employees first. Wisely, the airline kept that value at the core of its company culture after Kelleher handed over the reins to new leadership. It has created thousands of loyal employees and that has translated into legions of loyal Southwest flyers.
Employees will go the extra mile for a company when they know that the company cares about them. Of course, the opposite is also true. When employees feel that their employer is an adversary, that negativity, in larger and smaller ways, is reflected in virtually everything they do, especially when there is a challenging situation. Which brings me to a final recommendation.
As you’ve been reading this you’ve probably been considering how employees are treated in your company. If you really want to “take the temperature” of your company’s culture, study how you and your employees deal with difficult situations. It’s the trying times that best reveal our strengths and our weaknesses. Do your employees take an extra step or spend a little more time with customers in those situations? An honest appraisal will show you where you can be better, and, usually, emphasizing or renewing your commitment to the Employee Golden Rule is a good place to start.
Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert and New York Times bestselling author. Find more information at www.Hyken.com.
This article was written by Shep Hyken from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.