Monday, March 7, 2016

Why Janitors May Be Your Best Brand Advocates

Some time ago, I read a book, Managing Whole People, One Man's Journey, by leadership expert Mark Herbert, and the book featured a memorable story about the importance of corporate culture. A man visited a hospital in Texas because he wanted to meet a famous heart surgeon. As the man left the hospital following his meeting with the surgeon, he met an elderly man who was mopping the floor. The visitor asked, “What do you do here at the hospital?” The elderly man who was mopping the floor replied, “Dr. DeBakey and I save lives together.” The elderly man explained that Dr. DeBakey had told all staff members that hospital infections kill more patients than disease, so the elderly man was doing his part to keep the hospital clean.

Now, think about your business and your culture. If a total stranger interacted with any of your employees, would he or she have the same type of experience? Would he or she see firsthand that your employees understand your business, your brand promise, your competitive advantage, and why your business exists?

I’ve invited Mark Herbert to share some of his insights to help businesses improve their cultures and maintain long-term, satisfied employees.

The Human Resources Pyramid describes a series of questions that every employee from the custodian all the way up to and including the CEO seeks answers to, and both the questions and the order that they are answered in (if it all) play a very important role if you expect to create and sustain an environment of engagement. Those questions are:
•    What is my job?
•    How am I doing?
•    Does anybody care?
•    What do we do?
•    How are we doing?
•    How can I help?

When you address these questions on an individual level along with the Golden Circle from Simon Sinek, you have a formula for creating the kind of alignment and performance that cause CEO’s and CFO’s to shout with delight. Sinek’s model is elegant in its simplicity; he recommends that organizations answer three key questions from the inside out rather than from the outside in:
•    WHY are we doing this?
•    HOW are we doing this?
•    WHAT are we doing?

When you think about it, these questions form the foundation of every organization with a meaningful value proposition, whether they are in the profit or not for profit space. We hear every day that the new generations are demanding more from their work than a paycheck, they want meaning and value. For all the debate about employee engagement and employment branding, the evidence is compelling that organizations with high levels of engagement outperform their competitors in every key performance metric. Similarly, organizations with strong intentional employment brands – think Starbucks, Google, Apple, Zappos – don’t spend much time lamenting the fact they can’t find applicants to fill their open positions.

Dr. DeBakey was a man before his time. He provided a roadmap for employees before it was called employee engagement. If you look back at the conversation with the custodian, he knew the answers to both the Human Resources Pyramid and Sinek’s Golden Circle. High-performing organizations recognize that their BRAND lives where their customers and their employees intersect. As leaders, the choice is ours….

My thanks to Mark for his commentary here on my blog. Here are some final thoughts...What steps do your leadership team, management team, and human resources team all take to make sure that your corporate culture allows for and develops respect, responsibility, rewards, information sharing and open communication, and loyalty? If you cannot answer the question, just think about the Texas hospital janitor – wouldn’t you want him on your team?

For more timeless leadership insights, follow Mark Herbert on Twitter @NewParadigmer and on his blog at

Image Credit: vectorolie via

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