Guest post from Tom Pandola:
Being a curious student of leadership, I find myself always noticing businesses that are doing things well, and those that are not. One day while ordering my lunch at a well-established and famous hamburger chain – In-N-Out Burger – I was overwhelmed with the desire to find out why every employee was smiling, being friendly, and demonstrating an absolute focus on customer satisfaction.
With no one in line behind me, I felt that it would be a good time to chat-up the friendly woman behind the cash register to find out the secret behind all of these smiling faces. As I received my change, she said in a delightful way, “Thank you for your order, I hope you enjoy your meal, it should be just a few minutes!” I replied, “Oh yes, thanks. Can I ask you a question?” Without giving her a chance to answer, I said, “Why is every employee always smiling? Is this something you are trained to do?”
The cashier said, “Our smile is part of our uniform! We learn that in training!” Her answer was delivered as enthusiastically as the work environment that was palpable in each of this company’s restaurants that I have visited. I thought that if a smile is truly part of one’s uniform, to be genuine, there had to be an organizational culture behind it that gave everyone something to smile about. Think about it: this is fast-food. For the employees, what is there to smile about? And yet, the leadership of this company must be doing something right, because it works!
I have spent 25 years in the world of firefighting, and another 10 years in various business positions, and dressing for success is something that I believe must be a conscious choice. As a firefighter, a smile wasn’t part of our uniform, but other things that were critical to our success were. When a firefighter attaches his or her badge to their uniform there are certain cultural expectations that come with it. Knowing what to expect within our work environment required every firefighter to always dress for success. Firefighters must be prepared with protective clothing that can withstand up to 1,500-degree heat, breathing equipment that allowed us to work in poisonous atmospheres, and other tools to assist in finding our way in the zero visibility-environment found inside burning buildings. But that was just one of our many uniforms. We had others that fit the task we found ourselves engaged in, and provided us with what we needed to succeed.
Whether it was firefighting, working around the station, training, exercising, or conducting fire prevention inspections, each required a certain uniform that was designed specifically for each situation. I believe the term “dressed for success” actually means much more than mere clothing choices. It includes the whole package for what an employee is expected to accomplish, much like a smile being part of the uniform for the food, beverage, and hospitality environment. How we are “dressed” is more about our level of preparation, and should include everything that it takes to be successful.
What does it mean to be dressed for success in your business or industry? Think about what it takes to be successful at the different tasks, vocations, or positions within your organization. Has your leadership provided your workforce with all that they need to be “dressed for success”?
The following six cultural necessities are critical to how the fire service ensures their people are dressed for success at all times, including in the hot, dirty, and dangerous environment that defines firefighting. Your business environment is most likely very different, yet these same ingredients will also work where ever people are the common denominator in delivering success, or failure:
2. A critical thought process that creates accountable and empowered problem solvers.
3. A process for creating continuous incremental improvement in search of best practices.
4. The ingredients needed for high-performance teamwork.
5. The expectation for individuals to set and prioritize goals.
6. A checklist for crisis management.
Whether it is serving up fast-food with a smile, fighting fires in challenging environments, or doing what you and your organization do best, to be successful at anything we all need everything! Start to build an organizational culture that will have everyone consciously dressing for success. When you do you will have a workforce that is always wearing the right uniform that represents total preparation, and will deliver success every time.