The Missing Link

It always begins like this: “Bryan, what do we need to do to create a strong service culture?” Or “How can our leaders inspire excellence from their team members?” Please notice the we in the first question and the our in the second question. Inevitably, the client and my team discuss key pieces like the vision, mission, values and service standards. We also go over their hiring process, recognition programs, and/ other critical items needed to build and reinforce a strong service culture. Even with all of those important pieces in place, there is a critical link that is often overlooked or flat-out ignored. The missing link…the key ingredient is YOU.

Let’s talk about YOU

This point recently hit me squarely in the forehead. With all the talk on what leaders need to do and the organization needs to do, the malnourished component is the individual leader, and what he/she, specifically needs to do every day. What am I going to do? What behaviors will I be accountable for? Challenge yourself and encourage your colleagues to challenge you as well.

The team’s culture is based on what YOU:

  • Consistently demonstrate (behaviors)
  • Consistently celebrate (recognition)
  • Consistently tolerate

Let’s be clear, people don’t do what the organization expects, they do what the manager pays attention to. If the leaders pay attention to the same things that the organization expects, then that’s great!


There is something very powerful and transformational about having high expectations. It is inspiring to see strong leaders who insist on excellence, set challenging goals and expect their teams to succeed. You will be surprised at how people rise to the occasion. They may not only surprise you, but they may surprise themselves as well.

Obviously, the opposite of having high expectations is having low expectations. Absolutely nothing good comes from having low expectations. Consider this…when you lower your expectations, what are the ramifications to the following:

  • Your own credibility
  • Your best performer’s morale
  • Your customer’s experience

*Credibility – When you have low expectations, your team knows it. They know that you are willing to accept less than excellence from them. As a result, they may get along with you, but they won’t respect or believe in you. And it’s almost impossible to lead others if they don’t respect or believe in you.

*Best performer’s morale – The people who are exceptional yearn to work for a leader who has high expectations. Nothing damages the morale of your best performers more than seeing their leader accept mediocrity from everyone else.

*Customer’s experience – Customers can always tell when leadership expectations are low. The low expectations are manifested in apathetic (or rude) staff and poorly delivered service.

So, if there is only thing you can do right now, my advice is to start with yourself. Truly search yourself. Inspect your own expectations of yourself. Get intimately familiar with you, what you do, and how you do it.  What are you consistently modeling, celebrating, and tolerating? Are you a living, breathing manifestation of what you expect to see on your team? If so…the culture you are striving for may be closer than you imagine.

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Who smiles when you show up? What improves when you appear? Is the room brighter with you in it? Is the team more effective with