Are Your Employees Dressed for Success?

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: 
 

1.
A
training process that will develop a motivated and inspired workforce.

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.    

Tom Pandola is the author of Light a Fire under Your
Business: How to Build a Class 1 Corporate Culture through Inspirational
Leadership
. He is a director of communications in the air
medical transportation industry and a cofounder of Third
Alarm, a leadership consulting company he started with coauthor Jim
Bird. Pandola’s work experience includes 25 years with the Los Angeles City
Fire Department where, as a fire captain and battalion chief, he tested
inspirational leadership principles while solving problems associated with
responding to fires, floods, riots, and earthquakes.