No Fear—It's the Foundation of a Great Team.

In the previous blog posts, you've been looking at the employee experience. If you buy into the whole concept of the Service Profit Chain, it makes perfect sense that creating a great employee experience will help you create the best possible guest experience.

Then, let’s explore another element of the employee experience.

At the basic level, people have a need to feel safe. Only when you feel safe can you do your best work. If you feel anxiety in some form, your system directs your resources toward coping with whatever you feel as a threat. At a deep level, you try to answer the question: fight, flight or freeze? Obviously , none of these modes are conducive to producing great customer experience.

When you dissect great customer experiences, most of them are the result of one of your team members deciding to do something different in a given situation. The guest’s situation does not fit the script and there's a need for an improvised solution. The last thing that a guest wants to hear is "Sorry, we can’t do that." But in order for your front line staff to produce those creative alternatives that win you customers for life, your staff need to feel safe.

A good team is a great place to be exciting, stimulating, supportive, and successful. A bad team is horrible, a sort of human prison. — Charles Handy

That's also confirmed by research from Google where they have identified psychological safety as the number one driver of great team performance. Teams that experience a high degree of psychological safety outperform teams that don’t.

But what does psychological safety actual entail?

The research breaks it down into four components:

  • Tribe (A sense of belonging)
  • Expectations
  • Hierarchy (What are the roles?)
  • Autonomy

In simple terms, that means it's important that everyone feels included, that you set clear expectations and that you try and limit the surprises. There shouldn't be an excessive focus on authority and positions. Finally, the ultimate motivator for your team is if they get to have a say in how they do their work? Not what they do—that's a management decision—but how they do it.

This is all fairly easy to understand and makes perfect sense to most people. But as a busy team leader, how do you actually do that?


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Mike Hohnen, MBA is a coach, trainer, author and public speaker who supports leaders, managers and their teams in implementing the principles of the Service Profit Chain.

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