Four weeks ago we began a discussion of ten ways to build a company-wide customer obsession in 2019.
 
By way of review, Customer Obsession is a top-down, company-wide spirit, focus, and priority of delighting customers. It starts with leadership , vision , listening and (this week) spirit.
 
What is the spirit that permeates your business?
 
Years ago, a friend and his wife stayed at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Maui (ranked in the top 100 hotels in the United States). When asked what impressed them about this gorgeous 5-star facility, he said it was the kindness of the maid that cleaned their room. Her name was Maria, and he asked her one day, "Maria, what is it about the Ritz Carlton that is so wonderful?" She replied, "we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen." She just quoted the "motto" of the Ritz Carlton hotel. I'm told every employee carries this on a small card in their uniform. (On the flip side are the core values of the organization). But what really impresses me about that story is the actions of Maria on a daily basis. She exuded a spirit of kindness and service to guests. It was not just a company slogan on a card in her uniform. It was the spirit of Ritz Carlton. Now that is customer obsession.
 
So how do you do that? How does an organization become characterized by a passion for service? I believe it starts with a common vision and commitment, but more critically, it is the example of leaders in the organization.
 
Simon Sinek, in his book Why Leaders Eat Last..., noticed that some teams trust each other so deeply that they would literally put their lives on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives are offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why?

The answer became clear during a conversation with a Marine Corps general. "Officers eat last," he said. Sinek watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What's symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort--even their own survival--for the good of those in their care.

I heard of a university where the students had a huge food fight in the dinning commons and left it in shambles. The president of the university was outraged. He demanded that the students involved immediately return and clean up the huge mess. Hours went by and not one student would step forward. Finally, the university president took off his suit and donned grungy work clothes. He grabbed a bucket and mop and headed across campus. Without bitterness or acrimony, he quietly began the cleanup. The word went out, by text message, from student to student, "Hey, President Jones is cleaning the dinning commons!" Slowly students began trickling in, and by the end of the hour, dozens of them were working silently together.
 
Leaders model the spirit that will permeate the business. The way you treat your staff is largely the way the staff will turn around and treat the customer. Employees do what's caught not what's taught.