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The Power of Human Interaction

The Power of Human Interaction

For most of my career it was expected that I would show up at my workplace every day. Come in early, leave late. Put in the hours, do the work. It was what my bosses early in my career expected, and what I expected of my team when I launched my first business. It was how we did business. It was how everyone did business. Two massive disruptions changed this. First, business today is more about knowledge and less about process and repetitive tasks and second, technology made access to information available from anywhere.

If I need information today I can access it from a coffee shop, in my car, on an airplane, at the beach, or from home. It made working remotely possible. This coupled with a shift in corporate attitudes has led to a significant growth in working remotely. This shift was fueled greatly by companies’ ability to reduce office space and therefor cost by having a percentage of their employees work remotely.

At our company members of our team work away from our headquarters regularly. We couldn’t have done this effectively just a few years ago.

Just ten years ago, the first iPhone was introduced by Steve Jobs and Apple. This device launched a revolution in how we communicate and work. It changed everything. Well, not everything. Apple has begun moving its employees into their new $5 billion headquarters. For the first time in a decade, Apple is consolidating all of their Silicon Valley employees into one facility. Why?

“For all the beauty of technology and all things we’ve helped facilitate over the years, nothing yet replaces human interaction and I don’t think it will ever happen.”

Tim Cook
Apple, Inc.

Apple believes that human interaction is the key to innovation and their continued success.

At Artistry Hotels, we are building a culture that practices “The Art of Hospitality”. For us that is about delivering what our guest is looking for: to be inspired, to be taken care of, to feel welcome, to be themselves, to be enriched, and to support the greater good in a truly powerful way. Technology can help us do this, but true hospitality, “The Art of Hospitality” can’t be delivered by technology. It takes human interaction. It is a friendly smile, conversation, delivery of service. It is engagement. We don’t believe that there is any substitute for human engagement.

Technology, when used correctly, allows us to leverage our teams’ skill and resources to drive innovation, service, and customer satisfaction. It is a tool, it does not replace human interaction. We agree with Tim Cook, it never will. When you are building your company or division, don’t forget the power of human interaction.

The Middle Ground

The Middle Ground

Technology does a lot of really amazing things. It has facilitated and created massive forward movements in our society. I think that often people view technology on either of two extremes. People love it, craft their life around it, and crave the next devise they can purchase. Others are scared of the negative consequences, screen addiction, or the simple truth that in many ways it makes us live in a virtual world. Like many things in life, the best use of technology lies somewhere in the middle. It is somewhere that cannot be perfectly defined, and is different for every individual.

Tim Cook, Apples CEO recently said, “For all of the beauty of technology and all the things we’ve helped facilitate over the years, nothing yet replaces human interaction, and I don’t think it will ever happen.” I think this is profound and in makes that middle ground a little clearer.

Technology has moved the business world forward in ways that were once unimaginable. Yet, it has not replaced trust between individuals entering a deal together, a friendly front desk interaction, or even the genuine words of a thank you email. I think it is best for us to live in that middle ground with technology. We should embrace the way it makes us, as humans, better. It challenges us and pushes us to levels we used to only dream of, yet, it doesn’t replace the beauty of genuine human interaction.

What are productive ways you leverage technology and still integrate human interaction?

6 Ways to Value Your Employees

6 Ways to Value Your Employees

Valuing your employees and setting them up for success can provide tremendous benefit to your work place. Here are six ways to value your employees:
1. Groups need a set of shared values. Values are the filter we use for making decisions. What is right and what is wrong. For example, in our organization we believe that our team members deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This means no yelling, belittling, or intimidating. We also believe we get paid for doing, not for trying. These values are not contradictory. When a team member is underperforming they deserve to be addressed without yelling, belittling, or intimidating. It doesn’t mean they get a pass on underperforming. To the contrary, we owe it to our team to expect the best from each of us and to communicate openly and honestly about our performance.True values are manifested in how we act, not in a fancy sign in the lobby. The quickest way to destroy your culture is to allow your team members to act in a manner that differs from your stated values. When we act in concert with our values we demonstrate that people matter.
2. Hire for values first – skills second. If you have a position that requires people to be nice, start by hiring nice people. Too often we get bogged down in looking at skills and strengths and miss the most important thing. Use values and attitude as a screening tool, then and only then, move to skills and experience.

When we hire for values first we demonstrate that people matter.
3. Groups need diversity. Having shared values doesn’t mean everyone thinks alike. In order to grow as an organization you need diversity of thought and approach. Men and women can share values, but have very different approaches to problems. So too different races and cultural backgrounds. Without diversity your organization can rapidly develop “group think” and cease to see beyond the group. An organization that develops group think is headed for death.

When we build a team of diverse individuals we demonstrate that people matter.
4. Provide incentives that reinforce your values. If your incentive programs incentivize just individuals you discourage collaboration and shared values. Make sure you have incentives for the group and individuals. If you say that quality is number one, but you incentivize people based on how fast and how cheap they complete their project you are acting against your stated values. Your incentives should reinforce behaviors consistent with your values.

When we utilize incentive plans that reinforce behaviors consistent with our shared values we demonstrate that people matter.
5. Relationships are at the core of life. We are made to be in relationship with other people. Even introverts need human interaction. At the end of our time on earth what will matter is the investment we made in others. How did I help someone else? How did I make a difference? This is the core of developing a group of people who achieve great things.

When we build relationships we demonstrate that people matter.
6. Don’t tolerate people who act in contradiction to your values. One of the hardest things for any entrepreneur to do is terminate a high performer, but if that high performer is acting against your values they are a cancer that will destroy your culture and your organization.When we terminate those who act in disregard of our values regardless of their level of performance we demonstrate that people matter.

The power of a group of people who share values and a belief that they matter is incredibly powerful. When we create a group that is focused on people, we develop a unique and powerful culture that is able to do great things. Margaret Mead said it best,
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Question: Is your organization focused on people? If so, what are some of the ways you are demonstrating your focus on people. If not, what are some of the things you can implement right away to create a focus on people?

Creating Buy In

Creating Buy In

When bringing people onto a team, the term “buying in” is often used. “How will we get them to buy into our team/our mission/our vision for the future?” But how important is this? And how do we go about actually receiving the “buy in” our company leadership craves? 

Chip and I have often discussed that when hiring, it is more important to hire staff that aligns with your company’s vision than the talent they initially bring to the table. You can train an intelligent person to do nearly any task, but their drive and motivation is intrinsic to them. That is the clear differentiation when debating if someone will “buy in.” If they possess a heart that clearly aligns with yours and what you want your company to be, they will “buy in” to your company’s future.  

In my experience, the leaders I have worked overtime for, talked consistently well about outside of the office, and felt the most “bought in” for were the leaders whose visions my heart aligned with. This is one of the key reasons I am so passionate about working for Artistry Hotels. The vision we are working towards I will passionately chase alongside Chip and the team for as far as I can see.  

Interviewing and trying to figure out if someone would “buy in” to your company and leadership is no simple task. Discerning someone’s heart and passion in an interview is a gut feeling in many ways. Look for similarity in things you would say or desire for an employee of yours to say, then, trust your gut.

Lessons from Ritz Carlton: When the Customer is Wrong

Lessons from Ritz Carlton: When the Customer is Wrong

You’ve seen the sign – the one proclaiming that the customer is always right, even when they are wrong. How do I put this politely? MALARKEY

Sometimes our team members are right and when they are we need to stand up for them. My son worked for the Ritz Carlton hotel company for a number of years. They are legendary for focusing on their customer, or in Ritz Carlton language their “guest”. One day while working as a front desk supervisor he was in the office when he heard a guest berating one of the front desk agents. The guest was abusive and using inappropriate language and despite the front desk agent’s measured and polite tone the guest continued to escalate the confrontation. My son went to intervene and deal with the guest, but as he came out of the office the hotel’s general manager happened to come into the lobby. What happened next had a significant impact on my son, and his team at the hotel.

The general manager calmly introduced himself and began to apologize to the guest. Explaining to him that he was so sorry that they could not meet his expectations and that it would be his pleasure to help him find a new hotel that would meet his expectations. The guest began to back pedal, but the general manager was not moved from his position. He calmly, but firmly, escorted the guest out of the hotel.

After the guest had departed the general manager gathered the front desk staff and told them that they were ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. He would not allow them to be treated any less than that.

That encounter taught my son, and the front desk team at the Ritz Carlton some important lessons:
The boss had their back. The general manager communicated through his actions that his people were more important than a guest who was mistreating them. He not only stood up for them, but he stood in front of them, taking on himself their problem.

The boss reinforced the importance of the guest (customer). The general manager reinforced that the hotel team were ladies and gentlemen – whose mission it was to serve their guest. He didn’t give them a pass or a reason to mistreat or fail to serve a guest. Just the opposite, he highlighted the importance of the guest.

The boss preserved the dignity of the guest (customer). The boss dealt with the guest with compassion and took the blame for failing to meet his expectations. He did not treat the guest in the same manner that the guest treated the hotel team. He paid back rudeness with kindness.

The boss reinforced the values of his company. Part of Ritz Carlton’s culture is that they are “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”. This is an important part of their customer service focus. It sets the standard for not only how the team interacts with the guest, but also how they interact with one another. By his actions and discussing this with his team he lived the values that the company espouses. This is how culture and values become alive in an organization.

The boss taught his team how to deal with confrontation. The general manager showed that you can be decisive, firm, and tough, without being a jerk. You don’t have to yell, curse, or become animated to effectively communicate when people fail to act responsibly or fall short of expectations.

The boss taught his team that on occasion you have to fire a customer. Sometimes customers are toxic to our business. They may demand a disproportional amount of our time. They may be rude or abusive. Their expectations may not be able to be met by us. Keeping them may be unprofitable to us. Sometimes the customer may be right, but wrong for us. When this is the case we need to act decisively as did the general manager at the Ritz Carlton.

Creating organizational cultures that win starts with a relentless focus on supporting your team. When teams know their leader has their back they are empowered to focus on the customer. As leaders it is our job to protect and support our people. Sometimes the customer is right, and our team members are wrong. When this happens we need to quickly acknowledge it, apologize to the customer, make it right with the customer, and address the issue with the responsible team member.

What do you think about standing up for your team when the customer is wrong?

Organizational Cultures That Succeed

Organizational Cultures That Succeed

It sounds simple. Of course people matter, but too often we find ourselves focusing on systems, processes, controls, and technical skills. In the midst of our daily challenges we often lose sight of the fact that organizations consist of people, not systems or processes. So what causes us to lose our focus on people? It has its roots in the theory of Scientific Management.

This theory is based on the premise that people are the problem and systems are the solution. Economists and psychologists told us for years that people always act in their own self-interest. By attacking a problem with detailed analysis such as time and motion studies and devising a rigid unyielding procedure for each and every task you would produce predictable and stable results. This would prohibit people from acting in their own interest instead of the organization’s. This may have worked in the manufacturing factories of yesterday, but not in the knowledge based economy of today.

Research has proven that people act in the best interest of the group, when they perceive that they are a member of the group. In fact, people will act against their own self-interest when it is for the benefit of the group. This is why people matter.

Your competition can reverse engineer your products, duplicate your processes, and leap over your technology. What they can’t do is replicate your unique culture. Culture is your only sustainable competitive advantage. People create, sustain, and destroy culture. This is why you must have a relentless focus on your people.