Are You Brave Enough?
Updated: Aug 13
For 15 years, my playground was a corner office on the 10th floor of Siu On Center, in Hong Kong. Po Chung and I met almost daily to expand what we called Service Leadership.
As DHL's Chairman Emeritus for Asia Pacific, Po has tons to share when it comes to building and encouraging great teams. After he retired from DHL, he brought me on to help him articulate why DHL's global network consistently led the pack with the best workplace. These insights fill our growing library of books.
And now, a disclaimer. Although I was Po's consultant for years, I've never been a proper DHL employee. My apprenticeship with Po was with a key DHL executive after he stepped down from heading the company's Asia Pacific operations. The proof and validity of what we talked about came from DHL's ongoing dominance in the industry. That, and from speaking with DHL's staff. It's really amazing to get such positivity from a courier... So yes, you bet. I'm a convert. I'm convinced that what DHL does right is something all companies can learn from.
Are You Brave Enough – To Change?
My clients have one thing in common: They eventually admitted they needed to change. Usually, it's a mandate from the top. By the time I get hired, it's clear that in order to have a breakthrough something must change.
At the heart of the dilemma is that CEOs live in a world that runs from month to month. Challenges crop up, how will this affect this quarter's results? How do we deal? Going from fire to fire, it's too hard to step back and play the long game. Or maybe the issue comes from one or a few toxic managers who keep poisoning what we call the Service Habitat. Sometimes, out of inertia and resistance to change, a toxic manager is suffered. It's fine, maybe, so long as results keep coming in.
In other words, when I get hired, it's usually because leaders and managers are finally able to own up to the reality of a poisoned or toxic Service Habitat.
Bad office politics, power abuses, managerial arrogance, or just an outdated mindset are a few of the toxins that can poison a Service Habitat. When this happens, people simmer resentments and maybe some quit when they have a chance. In these unhealthy teams, the good people leave. When that happens, these good people hurt operations and also take an important part of the company's success with them.
Remember that focusing on short-term results can lead to the unhealthy Service Habitat. Predictably, because it's common, some leaders stick ignore what's happening under their watch because it's easier that way. It's easiest to do nothing now and hope the crisis will fade than to face the ugly truths of why a Service Habitat is unhealthy or toxic.
In stark comparison, Po's stories from DHL were lessons on what happens when a Service Habitat is healthy and strong. High engagement, low staff defections, and a dedicated team that runs a great operation are the outcome of a healthy Service Habitat. The company's success isn't from dumb luck, but from proactively diagnosing, treating, and maintaining a healthy Habitat! They understand and practice the behaviours and that maintain great team health and culture.
Even as the pandemic ebbs, we see the 'Great Resignation' remains a challenge for many company leaders. This is still a major challenge. So why would company leaders ignore their Service Habitat or team health? If it seems too hard to tackle right now, here are three points that can help you get ahead of the problem:
1: Admit there's a problem.
Does your team have poor culture or bad office politics? Is your attention too focused on internal conflicts than on beating the competition? Are people unhappy, even if their performance is average? If you answered yes, then that needs your attention.
Remember: The road to recovery starts by recognizing there's a problem – and this takes courage.
2: Face the music and get help.
I love helping people who know and want to change and grow. Sometimes, all they need is a mindset shift. With the right mindset, your team can take on the world... And even become the next DHL! Once you recognize the need to change, talk about it with your team and find the programs, prototypes, books, training programs, coaching, analytics, and many other tools to help you upgrade.*
Remember: After you admit you need help, you must take action.
* As a reward for reading this far and participating, leave me a comment and I'll send you a copy of our book on how to become a great Service Leader.
3: Stick to your self-care.
Every entrepreneur learns that success comes from adapting, responding, and evolving to change. To stop evolving is to stagnate. So to keep beating the competition thanks to a dedicated and engaged team, you must keep reviewing, diagnosing and improving your Service Habitat.
Remember: The best companies always innovate and upgrade their culture and Service Habitats.
So... Are You Brave Enough?
Those three steps are a great start and only need follow-up. It's not magic, just practice. Al companies that consistently rank tops as the best place to work make this a priority. Look again at the DHL van photo in this article. I was just outside when I snapped this random shot – and you can see how important it is to the company that they run a great workplace with a healthy Service Culture. It's part of who they are in the world.
* Don't forget to leave a comment if you want a copy of our book! Always keep learning and aiming to become a great service leader. For your team and especially for yourself, your personal excellence is one of the best ways to support everyone in your life.
Here's to a great New Year and keep an eye out for the next post!