Do you know what your employees are doing when no one is looking?

I love Herb Kelleher’s definition of culture: “Culture is what people do when no one is looking.”

The problem is, it (culture) doesn’t happen on its own; I think that might be called “anarchy!” Culture needs a little push, a little guidance, and once it has that, it takes on a life of its own.

So what does that mean, a little push or a little guidance?

I’ve updated my framework for a customer-centric culture from a three-legged stool to now include five building blocks, with purpose still being the first block:

  1. Purpose
  2. Core Values
  3. Employees
  4. Leadership
  5. Customers

In that order.

Bear with me.

Your purpose is your why; it’s the reason for being, the reason for doing what you’re doing.

Employees want to work for companies with which they are aligned. When employees are connected with your purpose and are passionate about what they are doing and who they do it for, there is a real benefit: they are more focused (on what they do and on the success of the business), want the business to succeed, and will do anything to ensure it does.

I added core values because I think they are necessary to help employees make the right decisions, in general. When in doubt, fall back on your core values. More importantly, your core values are going to drive hiring decisions, to ensure that you hire the right people, which is the next building block.

When you hire the right people, they will be aligned not only with your purpose but also with your core values; they’ll embrace the same values in their own lives. Jim Collins says it best in Built to Last:

Core values and purpose are not something people ‘buy in’ to. People must already have a predisposition to holding them. … the task is to find people who already have a predisposition to share your core values and purpose, attract and retain these people, and let those who aren’t predisposed to share your core values go elsewhere.”

Be employee-centric before you are customer-centric. Why? because, as Kip Tindell, Chairman and CEO of The Container Store, says: “Take care of employees better than anyone else, and they will take care of customers better than anyone else.”

Simple enough.

Perhaps I could have put leadership before employees, but we all know that leadership is there to support employees and, basically, stand back and get out of their way. Leadership has a key role in ensuring the culture stays on the right track. Leadership must model, support, and reinforce the desired behaviors; be transparent and trustworthy; communicate; and quite simply, respect and care about the employees. Set the course, and set them free.

And finally, as odd as it sounds, customers are the last (not really, but last on this list) building block of the customer-centric culture. As Hal Rosenbluth said: “… if you genuinely want to put customers first, you must put employees more first.” That’s why customers end up last in this list. So, last but not least, take the time to get to know your customers and their needs. Listen to them. Walk in their shoes. Understand what jobs they are trying to do, what needs they are trying to fulfill. Make every decision as if the customer was in the room.

You can’t sell it outside if you can’t sell it inside. -Stan Slap

Happy CX Day!

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s Blog Carnival “Celebrating Customer Experience.” It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers here.