It will be three years this week since my father passed away. Remnants of the family culture he created still remain in my two brothers and me. We continue to be early risers as Dad made sure everyone was out of bed by 7:30 a.m. everyday including weekends. He truly believed the cliché “the early bird gets the worm” and couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to waste any part of the new day. We are still hard workers. On Saturdays, my brothers had to help mow, rake and weed in the yard, while I was expected to change beds, clean bathrooms and pick up in the house with my mother. Only after the chores were done, could we run play with our friends for the rest of the day. Sundays were for fun. After getting us all to 7:30 Mass, Dad would pack us into the car and we headed off to the beach for a full day of waves, sand and hot dogs cooked on the hibachi. It was all part of a way of life and we knew the expectations of behavior and aligned ourselves to share in the family and be a part of this family culture. We wanted to belong.
L.L. Bean bases their success upon their culture. The NRF recently interviewed their president, Chris McCormick to share their secrets to top-notch customer service. He says their culture goes back to 1912 when his grandfather started the company on the cornerstone of superior customer service as the cultural attribute that would differentiate their company from the rest of the pack. He considers it his duty to make sure this legacy lives on. They just won the distinction of being the only retailer to win top ranking in the Customer’s Choice Awards for three of the five years it has been given.
For many years in my role at Hertz, as the regional trainer for the Southeast U.S. and Caribbean, it was my job to visit each of the Hertz rental facilities and ensure consistency in the image and customer service each offered. I could tell from the moment I walked up to the counters as to what their culture was. It was easy to read the clues: Did the rental agent look up and smile as I approached? Were the counters organized and neat? How was the collateral material of brochures and marketing materials set up? Were there coffee cups and soda cans in view of clients? Did the rental agents speak in friendly courteous tones or did they sound repetitive and robotic? All these elements spoke loudly as to the culture set by the manager of that facility.
Culture begins from the top down, whether that top is your parent, president of an international business or manager of a small local unit. It starts with establishing the expected behaviors and then the reinforcement of those behaviors through Seven Leadership Actions:
1. Communication of the expectations
2. Interviewing and Selection for employees willing to perform to the expectations
3. Orientation and Training on how to deliver on the expectations
4. Measurement to the expectations
5. Recognition of performing the expectations
6. Removal of the obstacles in meeting the expectations
7. Accountability by everyone to “live” the expectations
In retrospect, Dad carried out all these Leadership Actions in the way he created our family culture. Other than the Interviewing and Selection step… he got to choose my mother, but was stuck with us three kids.