When I was a schoolteacher, I had a particular student who, while talented, acted out a lot. He was loud and belligerent. He was difficult to keep on task and had a hard time seeing the value and need for learning certain things. Long story short, he was a challenge.
A lot of my questions about him were answered when I met his parents during parent-teacher conferences. While they were cordial, they were difficult with each other and sometimes with me. They had trouble agreeing on things and pointed out each other’s flaws easily. They were a bit obnoxious actually.
Meeting the parents had made it clear as to why my student was the way he was. He patterned himself after his models.
This is how we humans do things. We are endowed with what are known as mirror neurons that help us copy what we see. While the jury is out on exactly why this is so, many scientists believe this came about as a survival mechanism.
Imagine a young child of our prehistoric ancestors. When they saw mom doing something and it kept her safe, fed, and successful, they copied it. And because language was not yet a reality, this non-verbal teaching was a great way to keep the kids alive.
We still have big holdovers of this in us today. Go over to a baby and stick out your tongue. After just a few times, the baby will copy you and stick out their tongue in response.
This makes it abundantly clear how important what leaders do and say is in creating a desired culture.
And, as the story of my student shows, what happens inside your house is what will happen outside your house. In other words, what leaders do inside the organization is what will be copied throughout including those who interact with your customers.
Hence why training people often gets sporadic results. If you want your training to stick, your leaders must walk your talk inside your house.
So, a fundamental step in improving the service your organization delivers is not additional training or overhauling your hiring practices. It begins with getting your leaders and managers aligned around service. They must demonstrate the behaviors they expect their team members to demonstrate. They must be the models that the team members copy.
This means getting out there and examining how your leaders and managers behave. Are they modeling great service? Are they helping your team members survive in the customer jungle?
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