Reconnecting Teams to their Purpose Through Daily Inspiration

One of the most under-appreciated skills that talented transformational leaders possess is the ability to inspire their team daily. Even some of the most challenging and important jobs, like a clinician saving lives or an engineer working on a spaceship can become routine or monotonous.  Talented transformational leaders help team members see the importance of their work even when it becomes regular and normal to them.

Leaders use inspiration to motivate teams and combat the mundanity effect

This phenomenon is known as the “Mundanity effect.” The “Mundanity effect” describes how an activity can begin to feel less exciting or special and instead seem more routine or ordinary. It has been studied in cases like business ethics, emergency rooms, and Olympic athletes, all with negative effects if not addressed.

That is where the leader comes in. Providing daily inspiration can help connect team members reconnect to the exciting parts of their work.

One of the best examples of using daily inspiration in practice is from Ritz-Carlton hotels. Every day, all Ritz-Carlton employees across the world participate in a 10 minute meeting called the “Lineup”.  The lineup consists of four agenda items: Review the Ritz-Carlton gold standards, share stories of great guest service, celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries, and discuss property specific information. The first two topics are standardized and are usually developed at least one year in advance.

One of the goals of the lineup is to showcase memorable examples of exceptional customer service, a hallmark of the Ritz-Carlton. These include stories like Chris Hurn’s about his son’s favorite stuffed animal, a giraffe named Joshie. Chris’ son accidentally left Joshie behind at the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida. When the hotel staff found Joshie, they didn’t simply box the stuffed animal up and send it back to Chris’ son. Instead, the Ritz-Carlton ladies and gentlemen (how they refer to their employees) produced a photo book of scenes showing Joshie having an “Extra long vacation,” like hanging out by the pool or driving a golf cart. This story shared an example of incredible customer service and inspired the team to create moments like this one for other guests.

A leader helps to communicate to team members that what they do matters. Leaders show that the work people do every day has meaning, especially for the customer.

The Ritz-Carlton understands the value of daily inspiration to combat the “mundanity effect,” but most organizations to not provide similar resources to leaders. It can be difficult for leaders to find inspiration to share with their teams daily. Luckily, there are variety of resources to help leaders inspire their teams, such as books of inspiration and daily 365 books like the Daily Stoic or the Daily Drucker.

Still, the best sources of inspiration will come from the leader’s and team’s experiences with their customers or with each other. Leaders should continually keep their eyes open for inspiration, collecting customer feedback that can be shared with the larger team. A leader should know their team members well enough to figure out what material will connect them to purpose and seek out relevant examples.

The ability to inspire is an undervalued characteristic of high performing leaders. While it is not intuitive for every leader to find or share inspirational stories, it is a skill that leaders can certainly use more often. Whether it is a customer story or inspiration from a book, leaders should not avoid this responsibility and fall victim to the “mundanity effect.”

Key Takeaways

Leaders use daily inspirational messages to keep their team members connected to purpose. They can find daily inspiration to share with their teams through a variety of resources like customer stories and books.

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Book Review: The New Gold Standard

I especially enjoy books that, “pull back the curtain” on the operations of organizations that are well-known for their customer service. There are many good ones out there about Disney, Starbucks, and other companies. In hospitality, The Ritz-Carlton has long been well-known for their service. Their motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen” embodies the type of service and respect that are embedded in every Ritz-Carlton Hotel across the globe.

newgoldBefore I get into the book, one quick story about an experience I had at the Ritz-Carlton. I was fortunate to attend a conference for work several years ago at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. I arrived by taxi and when we pulled up to the hotel it took me a minute to settle up with the driver. When I was ready to exit the cab, a gentleman wearing a beautifully pressed uniform had already loaded my luggage onto a bell cart, opened the door of the car, and said, “Welcome to the Ritz-Carlton, Mr. Sachs. We hope you enjoy your stay”.

I had never been to that particular city before, let alone the hotel. I did not even make the reservation and somehow he knew my name. How did he do that?

In The New Gold Standard, author Joseph A. Michelli takes us behind the scenes of the Ritz-Carlton to show us how the magic is made for every guest experience. The Ritz-Carlton makes every employee live the “three steps of service”, which emphasizes using the guest’s name.

While reading the book I realized that the gentleman who helped me during my stay had most likely looked at my luggage tag to find my name. How brilliant! Something so small got my stay off to an incredible start. Was he told to do that? Is that in the Ritz-Carlton manual?

The long and the short of it is that it is not. There is no manual to work at the Ritz-Carlton. Instead, empowerment is the foundation of the Ritz-Carlton approach to service. Staff at the hotel are encouraged to find new and innovative ways to deliver on the company’s motto and the three steps of service. In fact, each and every employee is empowered to spend up to $2,000 of the company’s money each day to resolve an issue with a guest. How many companies allow that?

The hotel emphasizes empowerment through daily communication in the hotel’s “lineup”. At lineup, all staff are present. They reference and read from the main service elements (every employee carries a business card sized “credo card” with them at all times), discuss what is happening at the hotel that day, and learn about a “Wow experience” that could come from any Ritz-Carlton across the globe (there are a couple of great examples in the book).

These are only a couple of the many norms, processes, and checks that drive the disciplined and deliberate behind-the-scenes magic of the Ritz-Carlton that most guests will never see. For the Ritz-Carlton, service is at the core of their product and they set a very high bar for themselves. They are a model when it comes to understanding the impact of hiring excellent staff and treating them with respect, whether they clean the rooms, work at the front desk, or are the CEO of the company.

KEY TAKE-AWAY: Staff empowerment is at the foundation of the Ritz-Carlton approach to service. To promote a culture of service, it is vital to hire excellent staff who believe in the mission, vision, values, and culture because they will be the ones who must bring those ideas to life in new ways every day. 

The New Gold Standard is available for purchase on Amazon for $28 (does not include Amazon prime discount)