Leadership Culture – More Than Just Tapas!

leadershiptapasPerhaps like me, you are convinced that the quality and style of customer experience we receive has a lot to do with the culture and climate of those serving.

  • A simple definition of culture is – how things get done. This is slightly different from climate.
  • The service climate (within an organisation) is how people feel (about how things get done) when they are at work serving their customers.

Naturally, both the climate and culture of an organisation reflect many of the decisions and behaviours of the leaders. Even if the leaders haven’t woken up to these themselves and are still pointing fingers of blame at the front line staff.

To understand the impact of culture on the experience you are receiving (or meting out) we can begin looking at the different service cultures around you and how they ultimately affect the quality of customer experience.

For instance, I was in Spain recently visiting my brother who has lived in Valencia the last 10 years. We happen to go to a high street bank to deposit money and we are told they don’t

  • take deposits on a Friday
  • whether it’s cash or cheque
  • we’d have to come back next week to give them our money!
  • there was no apology for the inconvenience; no shows of empathy, consideration or displays of interest to our plight.

Afterwards we entered into a discussion about Spain’s customer experience culture and how this differs from the UK. Spanish friends who have come to live in the UK say they are amazed when they discover

  • customer complaint departments
  • that unlike the Spanish culture of just moaning, the British tend to moan and sometimes complain
  • that back in Spain you are unlikely to receive much positivity if you complain – why? Because it’s not in their culture to do so.

Naturally, these are generalisations and later that day we ate in a fine, modern tapas restaurant run by a young lady who knows her Trip Advisor ratings depend upon the restaurant welcoming and rapidly resolving complaints. We reported a calamari dish that wasn’t the best we’d had and she more than made amends.

So what of these anecdotal examples proving that the leaders, are ultimately responsible for the culture and climate? Some specialists believe leaders are responsible for at least 50%.

We must never underestimate the power of leadership on culture and climate and when reflecting upon Spain’s reluctance to complain perhaps it’s easy to spot why and how leaders influence.

After all Franco was Spain’s military leader who ruled as its dictator from 1939 until his death in 1975, becoming the longest-ruling dictator in European history.

He was able to hold on to power through his control over the armed forces, while firmly repressing ‘enemies’. This included the systematic suppression of opposing views through censorship, coercion, labour prisons, heavy prison sentences and concentration camps.

  • Who would dare to complain under such a climate?
  • Are such reluctances still reverberating today?

Likewise, when I consult my friends and colleagues in emerging nations such as Poland and Romania, we end up talking and generalising about the lack of smiling that seems to be offered in their customer experience. It’s easy to spot the customer experience culture we offer is inextricably tied to the leaders, their legacy and behaviour.

As one colleague said to me recently, “under our previous leader no one smiled”!

Glenn Bracey

Glenn Bracey

Glenn is the co-founder and inspirational learning and performance director of Future Vision. He is a trainer, coach, conference speaker and passionate advocate of developing learning that makes a tangible difference to your business, its people and customers.

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