By Dr. Howard Gauthier
Positivity and Positive Leadership is more than just communicating in an upbeat, optimistic, and uplifting manner. Positive leaders have high standards and expectations for themselves, their employees, and the quality of their products. This leads to enhanced performance, quality products, increased sales, and strong customer loyalty. When a business, organization, or sports team compromises their standards of quality, the result becomes performance errors, an inferior product, or worse – the losing of customers and supporters. Take the case of Kim. Being the hardworking and loyal employee she is, when her boss (Kurt) announced his retirement, Kim and her team decided to throw a retirement party for him. Kim took the initiative to purchase a cake and the party was set.
When the retirement day came, Kim went to pick up the cake at a local bakery and was stunned by what she found. The cake had chunks of cake missing. She asked if the baker could fix the bare spots and he agreed. Since fixing the cake would take some time, she decided to run to the grocery store and pick up some plates and napkins. When she returned to the bakery, the chunks of missing cake were filled with a different colored frosting. The cake looked awful, and she decided not to make the purchase. Rather, she went to Costco and purchased a cake from their bakery.
Now, let’s take a look at a second situation in which a customer recently boarded an early morning Alaska Airline flight from Anchorage, heading to Austin, Texas. The trip would include stops in Seattle and Los Angeles. The first leg of the journey was smooth as the plane landed in Seattle. Since the customer only had about 25 minutes to catch her connecting flight to Los Angeles, she hurriedly exited the plane and made her way to the new gate. The issue was that she accidentally left her purse on the first plane. All of her ID’s and money were left behind. The problem was she didn’t realize this until the flight to L.A. had hit cruising altitude. That’s when panic set in. As she said, “full freak out tears flowing mode.”
In her state of panic, she alerted the flight attendants who told her to connect to the “Wi-Fi” and get in touch with her husband. She would then need to have him call the Seattle airport lost and found. At the same time, the pilot contacted Alaska Airlines in Seattle and they did find her purse. Alaska Airlines first tried to get the purse sent to Los Angeles, but due to another tight connection, they had to settle on sending it to her in Austin via FedEx. This would take a couple of days.
Just then, the flight attendant came back to her and asked her to wait for him once the plane landed in Los Angeles. After landing, she met with the flight attendant and he told her that he had reached out to his friend at SeaTac who walked down to baggage claim, claimed her purse, and walked it to the next flight to Austin. The flight attendant informed her that her purse would arrive in Austin about 30 minutes after she did. Once the plane landed, another flight attendant stepped off the plane and reunited her with her purse. This was an unusual situation for most organizations, but not with an organization with positive, “can do”, leadership. With positive leaders, customer service is a priority. It is a standard of excellence.
In both situations, something undoubtedly went wrong. At the bakery, whether this was a one-time error or a systemic failure, the outcome was a lack of standards that resulted in an inferior product. In the second situation, the employees at Alaska Airlines went above the call of duty. These standards of great customer service and outcomes are common at the best organizations.
Standards are not a once in a while behavior or activity that you do just when you feel like doing something a certain way. Rather, a standard is an understanding of the norm you establish for how something should be accomplished. It is a part of your culture. It is a clear focus on doing things right, on providing an outstanding product, and making sure the customer receives the value they deserve. In order to establish a standard of high quality, a leader needs to hire good employees, train them properly, hold them accountable for their behavior, reward the right behavior, and make sure the customer is satisfied. In other words, you as the leader need to have high expectations for yourself, your employees, your products, and your customer service.
In the end, the bakery lost a customer and severely damaged their brand within the community, and Alaska Airlines strengthened their brand and has built a customer for life. As a leader, what standards and outcomes reflect the core values of your organization? Positive leaders understand the need for having high standards and expectations. These leaders have a pulse on the quality of their products and services. They ensure that the established standards are maintained by being aware of the actions and activities that are occurring, and also by inspiring, encouraging, and supporting their employees to meet the high standards of performance that have been established for their team or organization.
About the Author
Dr. Howard Gauthier is a Professor in the College of Education at Idaho State University where he teaches courses in leadership and management. Dr. Gauthier is the CEO of the Institute for Positive Leadership, and is an author, writer and an active speaker on positive leadership and culture. He is the author of five books, eight e-books, several research articles, and hundreds of blogs . Check out his book, The Positive Leader at www.ThePositiveLeader.org.