Friday, January 23, 2015

Caretakers of Complacency

...each time a new monkey was introduced to the cage, that monkey was summarily beaten down into submission.  - Tony Doody


If management were as simple as we'd like, there probably wouldn't be hundreds of books published each year trying to help people get it right. More art than science, yet it's always admirable when I see people reference science in the attempt to make sense of all that happens when two or more people are put in the same room. Or, five monkeys.

I have an idea, but...
Enter Tony Doody, who highlighted on his site the famous Harry Harlow experiments with Rhesus monkeys and how we seem to be hard-wired to punish others who propose a different idea, simply because we've been taught to punish them by those who've come before us and were punished themselves, for their own new ideas, as well.

Because that's the way we do things around here.  Or, some version thereof, has a perplexing and enormously powerful ability to shut down just about anything on a domestic team: ideas, creativity, morale, and especially good service itself. Think about, actually, anything that you notice on your estate which could be done just a little bit differently, an action which could provide better service to your principals by aligning you and your teammates' efforts closer to the principals' values... and their vision of what good service means to them. Now, fast forward a few seconds to the point after which you've expressed this idea, either verbally or from your own courage to just go forth and try a new way, and a co-worker (or even the estate manager or other family office executive) cuts off the discussion with because that's the way we do things around here. 

It's an implied threat, actually, and just as with the Rhesus monkeys, most people won't even know why they are against the new idea and beating their team-mates down. They may only know that... it's the way we do things around here, end of discussion, now go away and stop trying to make things better.

But, what's wrong with maintaining the status quo? And maintaining the team standards? Well, nothing, really, just as long as the status quo and team standards include those of quest for improvement and critical review of all current processes - including the team standards. Regulars to The Citizen will recall Gallup's infamous and exhaustive survey of what the best workers across all industries need to have, in order to be interested in staying on a team. No surprise came when Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? was discovered as a requirement; meaning, the top domestic service teams are comprised of more than simply having a few people sprinkled among them who are focused on excellence; the top teams are comprised of those who everyone on the team can also count on each of their co-workers to being committed to the mission of excellence. A quick primer for those who enjoy field trips is to simply walk into the lobby of a Ritz-Carlton for a few minutes and observe the surroundings. No, I don't mean the carpets and nice lighting fixtures, I mean the way the staff envelopes a satisfaction of working together - and having team-mates that care as much about success as they do. You can just feel it and, more importantly, so can they.

Among your established team standards, could one be that of encouraging - and even expecting - some type of innovation and discovery on a daily basis? Are there members on your staff prized and rewarded for their ability to thoughtfully disagree with the status quo? Or, are they simply caretakers of complacency, having been taught to protect themselves from further attacks?  

How are things done... on your estate?