Last summer I wrote Mission Statements, PAH! I want a story! and then this week I was lucky enough to see Michael Finnigan, the CEO of i2i – impossible 2 inevitable, lead a LUMS masterclass, and the penny dropped.
(thank you Andrew Leeming for the heads up).
I wasn’t sure what to expect, Andrew had only told me that I would enjoy Michael, but listening to Michael helped me pull together my thinking of my many years of experience. I write and speak a lot about joined up thinking in organisations, highlighting that for the customer, especially in this age of social media, marketing, sales and customer care are not separate departments. We need to adapt and understand the customer experience as a whole. I also talk about when employees are under pressure to hit targets they can forget to be human
Before setting up my training company I was, for many years, an employee of various not-for-profit organisations. I saw my fair share of mission statements and let’s face it most mission statements are a bit rubbish aren’t they? And more often than not they also cost a LOT of money as a consultant is given the job of producing it.
What they all had in common was they usually made employees roll their eyes as we saw just another example of senior management being out of touch.
However, what I learnt this week is that mission statements are actually meant to be useful! It is a statement that inspires, unites and engages the whole organisation, and is owned by the whole organisation.
This is a mission statement
How does that statement make you feel?
It got me right in the heart. I want to bring every worker home safely. And that’s the point. A mission statement must engage us at an emotional level.
With sadness it made me remember that all too often the experience for employees is that the mission statements of our organisations were some sort of public headline. They suggested a great value base, but they were in fact, what I refer to as, outward facing – like my nan’s best curtains – to show the world, rather than cheer the family (no disrespect to my amazing nan of course, she was just part of her generation).
An inward facing, or more to the point a 360 degrees mission statement must include the whole team. So an organisation with a statement about valuing everyone would value their staff.
In 2013 Southwest Airlines was named number one in customer satisfaction by the US Department of Transportation. This is the result of their ’employee first’ mantra In a blog from 2011 they wrote;
Our Culture differs from other companies in that, in our “order of importance,” we put our Employees first, then our Customers, then our Shareholders. Many companies feel you have to appease the customers or shareholders first, but Southwest Airlines has the magic formula that makes us an admired company: Happy Employees=Happy Customers=Increased Business/Profits=Happy Shareholders! We believe that, if we treat our Employees right, they will treat our Customers right, and in turn that results in increased business and profits that make everyone happy.
More recently, here in the UK Virgin have also taken on this philosophy.
But it’s so obvious right?!
Last year I was contacted about doing some customer care training for a local organisation. I costed up knowing that I needed to talk to the staff about what was happening for them, deliver something accordingly and do a follow up session.
I knew that when there’s a customer care issue there’s normally an internal mis-match somewhere and that I had to have some understanding of that before I could deliver something of lasting value.
This didn’t suit them and chose a 2 hour input from someone else! I’ve wondered about that since. I wondered if I’d over complicated it. But customer care isn’t an instruction, it’s a culture issue. If staff are unhappy there will be a reason and the organisation has to understand and notice.
Just telling people ‘when a customer calls do this, when a customer pops in do that’ is a quick fix, the sticking plaster that may well help short term, and will of course be the cheaper option – but it’s not a long term solution.
Michael very simply asks front line staff how are you? The answer will tell you if your team are happy. If they are not it is sure to seep out.
I’ve noticed this very issue at my local supermarket. They used to be so friendly and kind, then recently there was a re-organisation and the impact on the staff is so obvious, but apparently not to the organisation. I have to be honest it’s putting me off going in. On my way home I tried the ‘how are you?’ with the woman on my check-out and indeed his theory was spot on. She was not happy.
Of course it’s always easier to blame the employees than look at the organisational culture.
Then I came home and watched the Apprentice – and so it continues!
Over to you – what are your experiences of mission statements and staff culture as an employee, or a business owner? Please join in the debate by leaving a comment below.
Jane Binnion is a social media and ethical sales trainer, author, speaker and business coach. If you would like to work with Jane please email email@example.com
Ruth Zannis says
I agree with this and it feels good to see it in print! Was even talking to someone about this this evening!
Having worked in many different companies as an external consultant, you can very quickly gauge the mantra of the company through the employees, some of them very unique!
More recently though, particularly since being back here, I have found that in the clamour to be results or target driven the customer/person is actually forgotten, and this despite all the focus given to customer service. It’s almost as though in the urge to find the best formulas and practise to get those golden results, we forget that innately human touch, be it towards our customers or employees.
Taking an example from what I do, I think it can be summed up like this: I can either teach my students to memorize all the grammar rules and lists of vocabulary they need to pass their exams, or I can teach them to speak with intuition and spontaneity. It may cost more as a business to work this way, but we know which way is going to give us more satisfaction as employees/business owners and in turn bring greater benefit to our customers.
It’s time for us to start rehumanising business and I would say this is one place it can start.
Thank you so much for that comment Ruth, I love how you sum it up with your own business model. Yes indeed to re-humanising business, that’s my plan 🙂