Do One Thing Better: The Seven Habits of Empowered Frontline Teams
“In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is one percent better, or one percent worse. But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t.” — James Clear, author of Atomic Habit.
If you’re all caught up on Habit #1 of the Seven Habits of Empowered Frontline Teams, you’ll know just how important setting your service standard is. That is, a list of tangible outcomes put in place so that your customers know what to expect, and your frontline understand what’s required of them when it comes to delivering awesome customer experiences.
Let’s revisit the service guidelines from Disney —
- Be Happy – make eye contact and smile.
- Be like Sneezy – greet and welcome every customer. Spread the spirit of hospitality. It's contagious!
- Don't be Bashful – seek out guest contact.
- Be like Doc – provide immediate service recovery.
- Don't be Grumpy – display appropriate body language at all times.
- Be like Sleepy – create dreams and preserve the magical guest experience.
- Don't be Dopey – thank every Guest!
You may be thinking, how on earth do I get my frontline team to be happy, to be like Sneezy (but not like Bashful), to be like Doc, but not be Grumpy, to be like Sleepy, but not Dopey... all at the same time?
Sounds overwhelming, and difficult…
You’re right, it is.
But not when you use habit number two of empowered frontline teams; do one thing better.
This habit is about breaking things down, celebrating little wins and single-tasking to build foreign behaviours into daily rituals.
As long ago as 1887, we were fighting the urge to do too many things at once. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about the way “one thinks with a watch in one’s hand, even as one eats one’s midday meal while reading the latest news of the stock market”. Fast forward to the twenty-first century, with digital distractions, never-ending to do-lists and high levels of stress in the workplace, this has only intensified. We try to solve everything at once, and get nowhere, rather than trying to do one thing better, and moving a little inch closer towards our desired outcome.
One of the main reasons folks are attracted to the ‘do it all at once’ approach, is that it diverts anxiety. It’s a calming feeling to know you’re addressing everything, however, this feeling is deceptive. While your frontline team may have a shallow understanding of each service standard, or each responsibility, they’ll be spreading themselves thin, impacting the long term success of your team.
Instead, companies winning on customer experience focus on one thing at a time, nail it until it becomes human nature, and move on to the next. Then they repeat. Management experts Gary Keller and Jay Papasan reiterate this in their book, The One Thing, saying “success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time’.
The Ritz Carlton is a living example of this. The hotel powerhouse is well known for being the gold standard in hotel experience with the promise of being “a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.” This promise has been translated into 12 service values, which are printed on cards. Every day, employees in locations worldwide discuss one of those values at a team meeting. The team members talk about the service value, offer examples of how they have seen it behaved or have behaved it themselves, and strategize ways to operationalize the behavior even more. When the 12th service value is discussed, they go back to the first one. That way, everything The Ritz-Carlton stands for is thoroughly discussed and promoted.
There is tremendous power in focusing on one thing and achieving small success every day. First of all, it feels good. When you achieve something, your body releases dopamine into your system, which rewards achievement and encourages more. Small successes are a reminder that you’re getting somewhere, and you’re making progress. These little wins keep your frontline motivated and empowered to keep going.
Secondly, output and understanding is improved. If frontline member team A has one thing to really focus on, and frontline team member B has 8 things, it’s clear which team member will have a more in depth understanding.
Thirdly, doing one thing better decreases burnout. Harvard Business Review contributor Tony Schwartz says that the reason that between 25% and 50% of people report feeling overwhelmed or burnout at work is not just the number of hours they’re working, but also the fact that they spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time
Lastly, small improvements produce a huge compounding effect over time. Circling back to what James Clear said, there'll be a big gap between your business and competitors if you choose to honour every baby step. While progress may not seem much at the time, hindsight will prove otherwise.
Want to learn how to implement this habit into your business, as well as uncover the remaining six habits that companies such as Starbucks, Uber, the Ritz-Carlton and Disney use to empower their frontline teams and win on customer experience? Check out the Frontline Coaching Playbook here.