I’d be willing to bet that nearly every leader out there understands the importance of being a good role model. The problem is that knowing and doing are two very different things. It’s not just the big things either. It’s the little gestures, courtesies and expressions that tell the real story.
I pride myself in being a keen observer of people and, when brought in as a consultant, I do not hesitate to share the kind truth about what I see. In fact, some of the most telling moments happen in meetings with senior leaders who hired us for help in changing the culture.
In one situation, I was meeting with a vice president who oversaw all of the system’s medical practices. We were in a room where our Service Excellence Team meeting was scheduled to begin in ten minutes, and the door was closed as we finished discussing some logistics of the standards training and rollout.
There was a gentle knock at the door, and the VP flew out of her chair, flung the door open and barked at the knocker that the room was occupied, and the next meeting wasn’t scheduled for 10 minutes. She then closed the door, sighed with exasperation, and sat back down rolling her eyes saying, “Now where were we?” I froze – horrified. It was one of those moments when I could not sit back silently, and still feel authentic in the work I was there to do – to help them improve their culture.
I asked the VP who was at the door, not that it really mattered because her behavior was inappropriate for any living creature. She explained it was one of the service excellence team members scheduled to be in our upcoming meeting. Ironically, the meeting was about training staff on their service standards. I told her that I was concerned about what I had just witnessed. She was sincerely baffled, because in her world this was business as usual. I pulled out the pretty little pamphlet about their new service standards, and compared what I had just seen, to the behaviors described under respect and courtesy. She was truly shocked. Her behaviors were so engrained that she didn’t think twice about them. And because of her position in the company, very few people felt at liberty to call her out.
She was embarrassed and assured me that she would apologize to the person – which she did. This incident was a great reminder that anyone can create a list of standards for service excellence, but it takes self-reflection and commitment to make sure that you are exemplifying them at all times.