Turning Workplace Clark Kents into Superheroes of Service

© Dmitroza | Dreamstime.com

© Dmitroza | Dreamstime.com

Someone’s late for a meeting. Nobody calls the person on it. Next week, three people are late.  You try to convince yourself it’s a coincidence. Eventually, there won’t be a meeting in the entire organization that starts within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. Before you know it, everyone’s repeating the mantra that “starting late is the ABC Company way!”

You create sales reports to make sure the right people are called on and the right process is followed. Then some sales reports aren’t done accurately or aren’t timely. But it’s your top producer so…what can you say?

Then the top achiever stops doing the reports all together.  The rest of your team members follow the leader. Sales take a nosedive. Your sales team blames the economy and the competition.

Yeah, right.  It’s somebody ELSE’S fault.

Everybody knows the rules—but no one is calling others on it when they break the rules.  Your organization descends into lazy anarchy.  How could it not?

Look at any successful organization and you’ll see a group in which EVERY team member cares enough to call every other team member on it whenever a service standard is breached, a deadline missed, a sales process isn’t followed, or an honor code value violated.

Struggling organizations have folks who just want to be “nice.”  Think Clark Kent. When they see standards breached, they let it all slide.  Why?  So others will let THEM slide when THEY mess up. Eventually they’re all scratching each others backs, watching the iceberg pass by, and wondering why their socks are wet.

People need to understand that it isn’t “mean” to challenge each other—it’s uncaring and unloving to NOT challenge each other for falling short of what’s required. It keeps others small.

A leader’s role is to lead people to a level of greatness they thought was reserved for others—to tear the shirts off these Clark Kents, revealing the ‘S’ of the superhero below.  Your role is to help ordinary people get extraordinary results by using the most basic fact of human psychology:  People move away from pain and toward pleasure.

If somebody doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do and there is no immediate pain, that behavior continues. If there is no pleasure, that behavior isn’t reinforced.

Your job is to celebrate the many wins with rituals of pleasure and to let ALL your people know that celebrating those wins is part of their contribution to the team. It is also your job to make sure that when people don’t do what they’re supposed to do, they experience the pain of addressing the slip-up directly.

A balance of pain and pleasure serves as twin guardrails to guide continuous improvement in behaviors and results.

The ultimate job of a leader is to run an organization in which every person calls every other person “tight.” Only then do you know your people have the maturity both to challenge and to be challenged. When in the history of time has there been a profound result without a profound challenge?

Creating an extraordinary organization doesn’t mean finding extraordinary people. It means helping ordinary people discover that they can be extraordinary.

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