Launch from the Top Down and from the Bottom Up
By Ron Kaufman
When you build an uplifting service culture in a large organization, senior leaders must initiate the process. But ultimately all levels of leadership must embrace the project from the executives in the board room to supervisors on the shop floor.
This is why Uplifting Service recommends a simultaneous “top down” and “bottom up” approach to service improvement programs. Starting from the top with an uplifting service initiative makes sense. When high-level leaders speak up and role-model with commitment, it’s easier for everyone else to follow—and take the lead at their own levels. This is why Leadership Alignment is first on the Implementation Roadmap.
However, a top-down approach on its own can leave your leaders in an uncomfortable position. Launching from the top down means those at the top make the earliest efforts and then wait for the cascade to see practical results. While this is logical—a cascade does not happen overnight—it can be frustrating for leaders who are accustomed to impact quickly following their actions. In fact, a lack of quick and observable impact can cause some leaders to question whether the outcomes will happen at all.
It takes time to achieve measurable gains in market share, reputation, and financial performance— the ultimate objectives in business. And leaders understand that. But in the meantime, it is vital for high level leaders to see and hear about early successes on the ground. Don’t expect your Leadership Team to give endless support and sponsorship without hearing about some practical applications, real stories, and uplifting examples they can believe in and tell others about. These do not need to be big breakthroughs or quantum leaps—leaders know that a little precedes a lot. What they need is evidence of practical action inside the organization, and positive impact on the outside. Stories of frontline effort, excellent recoveries, and customer compliments are indicators of success. They are a bracing tonic and necessary fuel for high-level service leaders.
And beware of launching service improvement programs from the bottom up without support from the top—the classic mistake of stand-alone “frontline service training programs.” It won’t take long before a motivated frontline employee bumps into a supervisor or manager who does not share the understanding or the passion for service.
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