Many companies have great business process improvement (BPI) practices, and it shows in their excellent products and customer service. Sometimes companies improve their customers’ experiences after reviewing existing procedures and defining new processes designed to reduce bottlenecks and improve efficiency. However, we routinely encounter companies that express their frustrations when BPI doesn’t deliver results. When we delve deeper into their issues, we see a common thread—double standards.
When BPI is done correctly, the teams involved in the process are energized to use the new processes because they see the benefits. They are willing to be measured against a higher standard because they see that the higher standard is attainable. But it’s hard to anticipate every curve that will be thrown at you, and mistakes will happen. As a leader, how you react to the unexpected can make or break your new processes going forward—and there is nothing more motivating than seeing leadership being held to the same high standards expected of the workers.
Does This Scenario Sound Familiar?
You have built a new process for verifying and setting up new customers in your system. This process requires sign-offs between sales, finance and order processing to move smoothly through the system. As the manager, you get a daily report of customers that require a second review. It is your responsibility to complete the review on a timely basis. You must advise those customers that their orders will be delayed and notify them when the review is complete. After the issue is resolved, you will also have to remove the system flag so that order processing can complete the order.
Today, a customer arrived to pick-up their order, but it’s not ready because his account was flagged. Both order processing and the customer call you for resolution. Upon review, you realize that you have not advised the customer of the requirement for a second review.
Which Option Will You Choose?
A. Tell the customer that they must pay immediately to get the order as they have not been approved for credit.
B. Brush the mistake off and tell order processing to release the order, they have been a good customer for years.
C. Own up to the breakdown, agree to review the information immediately and have the order delivered.
If you chose A or B, you are guilty of a double standard. You expect sales, finance and order processing to follow the rules but you excused yourself from those rules.
How do you avoid the double standard?
If you choose C, you’re effectively avoiding the double standard by owning up to the breakdown. In a nutshell, you’re demonstrating to your team that you’re responsible and hold yourself to the same standard that you expect from them. Nothing reinforces processes and builds a strong team as much as showing that everyone is held to the same standards.
We have found that leaders who are seen by their team as holding themselves to a higher standard get more from their teams. Because the leader expects more from him or herself, the team consistently strives to reach the same standard as their leader. When you hit a roadblock, put yourself in your team or customer’s shoes, and ask yourself which solution will uphold the high personal standards you have set for yourself.