Breakthrough Teams: How You Treat Your Team is How They Treat Your Customers

Don, the Janitor at our family restaurant was struggling. Well into his late 70’s, Don’s hands were wrecked with arthritis and his eyesight was fading, especially when it came to the details of cleaning the corners of the restaurant. After some time passed, my father’s Lead Manager came to him and said, “Tom, we need to do something about Don. We all love and appreciate him, but we need to let him go.” My father paused before responding, “Nope, Don is a key part of our team. He will leave on his own terms and I’ll just add an additional cleaning service to support his efforts.”

Was that the best business decision? Perhaps it was not but the more I think about it, maybe it was. It’s hard to explain exactly how we all were loyal to Don. We were his family and, in his day, he did great work. He was always on time and gave extra time and effort to keep our family restaurant looking its best. I learned first-hand a great principle about operating a business and leading a team, how you treat your team is how they treat customers.

If you were a part of Tom’s Pancake House staff, you were family. We were a diverse crew and at times, a little feisty too. We always stood up for each other because we knew our leader, my Father, had our back.

One of the big missed opportunities for teams is standing up for the other team members when they are down. 

During World War II, Britain was experiencing its darkest days. The country had a difficult time keeping men working in the coal mines. Many wanted to give up and join the fight (aka the war) but without the coal workers, the military and homes would fail.

Winston Churchill went to the Coal Miners to paint a picture of the end of the war. He said there would be a great parade. First would come the sailors, then the royal air force, and third, the ground soldiers. Following behind the ground soldiers would be the coal-dust-covered men in miner’s hats. Churchill said, “You were there during the critical days of the struggle!”

It’s said that tears of appreciation appeared in the eyes of those hardened men. They returned to their inglorious work with steely resolve, having been reminded of the role they were playing in their country’s noble goal of preserving freedom for the Western World.

Who on your team can you thank?

Who on your team can you remind of their critical role within your company?

Go find the Janitor, the coal miners, maybe go out of your way to speak to the receptionist and display appreciation, loyalty, and respect. Remember, how you treat your team (and those you work with) is how they will treat your customers.

Here’s to Breakthrough Teams!
– Steve

As a master storyteller, Steve has unparalleled ability to communicate dynamic business and leadership truths through stories, anecdotes and humor. Harness the power of the “number one” predictor of professional success, impact, leadership, high performance and sustainable relationships in business and life. Steve’s highest rated keynote presentation.

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About the Author

Steve Gutzler is the President of Leadership Quest, a Seattle-based leadership development company. Steve is a dynamic, highly-sought-after speaker who has delivered more than 2,500 presentations to a list of clients including Microsoft, Starbucks, the Seattle Seahawks, Pandora Radio, Boeing, Cisco, Starwood Corporation, the Ritz Carlton group, and the U.S. Social Security Administration. He recently was voted #1 by the readership of Huffington Post as the Most Inspirational Leader on Social Media.

A published author on leadership and emotional intelligence, Steve resides near Seattle with his wife Julie where they enjoy time with their three adult children and six grandchildren.