The Hostility of Change: Breaking Through Deep-Seated Barriers to Recognize Achievement with Joe Thornton

AskNicely Team

In February 2022, hundreds of leaders from service businesses across the world gathered together online to take part in the Global Frontline Experience Summit, an event we are delighted to sponsor and host again after its hugely successful first run in 2020. It was a phenomenal event with a contagious heaping of inspiration, excitement and possibility for anyone working in the customer experience and frontline service space. 

If you missed the summit, brought to you by our Frontline Magic Community don't worry! All of the‍ sessions are available right here, and are just as powerful the second time around.

Change is a tricky concept: some embrace it, some resist it, but if there is one thing for sure in this world is that change is inevitable. When change comes about for frontline employees, the way we manage it makes all the difference. Here to share his wisdom on accepting and overcoming service business change is none other than Joe Thornton. With over 37 years of experience in retail, management and human resources experience across multiple brands such as Starbucks, Jamba Juice and Blockbuster, Joe has worn many hats (and crowns) for his impactful work across the service industry. 

Joe now helps airport restaurants at HMSHosts (Host Marriott Corporation) to maintain their operation across 300 brands and thousands of food and beverage locations. And as if that wasn't incredible enough, Joe is also the public author of The Hostility of Change: Breaking Through Deep Seated Barriers of Power, in which he breaks through hierarchies and encourages each person to speak up for what matters the most. 

If it wasn’t already clear, you’re in good hands! Let’s dive into the presentation. 

Three Principles of Change 

Joe shares with us the three principles of change, which he covers in further detail in his book.

  1. Change is a choice: We can at any point do something different with our lives

  2. Change is a reaction: For change to occur, you must be utterly dissatisfied with your current situation”.

  3. Improvement is not the same as change:Progress is important, but it's not real change”. 

Real Change is Sustainable

Joe looks at change through a realistic lens, sharing how real sustainable change happens deep inside each and every one of us. Oftentimes companies will try to create behavioral changes or big cultural shifts, relying on outside consultancies to come and “change” things for the better. But Joe believes without a desire for change at the individual level, making waves as a collective is near impossible. 

“There has to be a catalyst for change internally. Not some writing on the wall that's created by some corporate office think tank”. 

It's not enough to just say “I want to change” or “I'm going to change”, it doesn't work like a spell. Instead, as Joe explains, there needs to be a catalyst and change needs to happen from the inside out, and not the other way around. 

Change Relies on People 

Joe believes that real, sustainable change in the context of service businesses is possible, and it is possible because of people and leadership. One can’t happen without the other. Innovative leaders can create excitement and can incur change. However, it's not all up to the leaders, as Joe says that people need to want to change. Change cannot be forced, it is up to every person in an organization. 

“You have to make change happen without manufacturing it, without waiting for catastrophe, without forcing it”. 

Recognition Drives Change 

Joe points out that organizational change is driven by recognition, which is one of the 7 Habits of Empowered Frontline Teams

“When you recognize frontline teams for hitting the mark on customer service, you unlock a level of empowerment that arguably you can’t find with any other part of your business”.  

In fact, The State of Frontline Work study revealed that companies who invest in frontline recognition and empowerment see a 25% increase in revenue improvement, a 64% increase in employee efficiency improvement and a 73% increase in customer satisfaction. 

“Recognizing achievement is more than just giving a gift card or a letter, it's the core principle of catching people doing something right, it's about awakening that spirit of great customer service through recognition.”

Joe is a true believer that catching people doing things right and recognizing their achievements can allow companies to reach their maximum potential. 

The Case of Blockbuster Video

Joe rounds up his insightful presentation by sharing another of his personal experiences with us. Remember what you had to do before Netflix? Joe sure does. Joe reminisces on his days working for Blockbuster Video, the leading entertainment company at the time. Joe remembers having to go above and beyond to stay ahead of the game. 

Joe recalls how at the time, Blockbuster had mystery shoppers measure their service. The stores with the best mystery shopper score had the chance to win a big cash prize and an exclusive visit from corporate. 

“There's a group of executive leaders who would go visit the winner of the drawing each month and show up unannounced in the store with cake, balloons, and money”. 

Eventually, as word got out of the amazing prices, stores' behaviors changed to be more focused on service. Who doesn't want a big cash prize, right? But interestingly enough, Joe shares how the story that was really spreading was not one about money and cake, it was one about the excitement of the visit of the executive leaders. 

“They really appreciated the appreciation. That's really how powerful recognition is”.

Joe shares that it was the visit from corporate to stores and not money which really motivated the employees to change their behavior and strive to be better. With this, Joe has made it very clear that the number one takeaway from his presentation is that change is strongly connected to recognizing achievement.

Joe closes his presentation by directly addressing the audience and asking the question we’ve all been thinking of “What are you going to do to emphasize service and recognize achievement?”

To recap:

  • Change is a choice, but also a reaction. 
  • Change can be hostile, but it's necessary for growth.
  • Real change is sustainable and needs to happen internally. 
  • Recognizing achievement directly drives change.
  • Good leaders need to connect with their employees. 
  • Show your employees how much they're valued!

Inspired but not sure what to do next? Learn more about the AskNicely recognition feature here. 

A huge thank you to Joe for his energy and overall awesomeness at the Global Frontline Experience Summit. It was an incredible presentation that can inspire many leaders and employees, hopefully inspiring some sustainable change in the world. 

Want to see more presentations from the Global Frontline Experience Summit? We’ll be releasing blogs every week diving into all the juicy insights from our incredible lineup of speakers. In the meantime, you can join the Frontline Magic Community to receive updates, frontline news and more!
AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

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