I recently overheard a dispute between a gate agent and a customer at an airport. I wasn’t sure what the problem was, but I heard the agent say, “Look, I have to follow the rules or I’ll lose my job.”
It occurred to me, is there a chance that statement echoes how some of our employees feel? At Safelite, we believe talented and engaged people provide a service so great that it’s memorable for our customers. But the question is: do they feel empowered to do so?
I would be terribly saddened, as would many business leaders, to hear about an employee not being able to help a customer because it doesn’t follow “the rules.”
So, are we allowing our employees to “be” our brand? Are our employees inspired to go above and beyond to create a delightful experience for customers?
The only way we can truly make this a reality is trust.
Consider two concepts from Simon Sinek, author of two best-selling books, “Start with Why” and “Leaders Eat Last.” Sinek describes how great leaders aren’t made of titles or ranks — they take care of the group, often through their own sacrifice.
They make sure people have what they need to be successful; they sacrifice their time and energy to build relationships.
He also describes how great leaders create a circle of safety that extends to the outer edges of the organization — to the front line. They build a culture of trust so that people feel safe, empowered and devoted to doing their job to the best of their ability.
As leaders, we need to ask: Do my employees feel safe to do what’s right for our customers? If they feel it, our customers will feel it.
Here are three simple behaviors to help build trust:
Tell the truth
Don’t keep people in the dark, good or bad. Let them know how things are going and how they can contribute. Admit to your mistakes. Give credit where credit is due. Share the facts. Most of all, let people know where they stand.
Mind your shadow
As a leader, you cast a shadow and people are watching. Employees take their behavioral cues from what they see. If you dictate and direct, they’ll take that cue from you. If you don’t care, they won’t either.
When standing in the afternoon sunlight, your shadow looms much taller; leaders must carefully manage the shadow they cast on their staff.
This is simple in concept, but not always in practice, especially when you’re under stress.
Pay it forward
When you show trust and give someone a chance, they are more inclined to go above and beyond to show that your trust is well placed. They are also more likely to show trust in you and in others. That’s how pay it forward works; it’s contagious.
Most importantly, though, trust yourself. The answers aren’t in a book.
Trust your instincts. Think things through and use your best judgment. Trust your ability to find out-of-the-box solutions — for your people, your customers and your business.
Tom Feeney is the President and CEO of Safelite AutoGlass®. In his 27 years with Safelite Group Inc., Tom has been instrumental in establishing Safelite AutoGlass® as a nationally well-known brand.