In December, my family went on a one week vacation on a cruise ship. To be honest, I was a bit nervous about being confined to a ship with about four thousand other passengers for seven days! But once I was onboard the “floating hotel”, my fears dissipated almost immediately. Firstly, though the ship was massive, other than the buffet at noon, people were spread out around the ship, so it never felt too crowded. Secondly, because the staff were so wonderful and really created a wonderful atmosphere for the guests. It is this later point that I’d like to expand upon.
If you are a cruiser, you know that every few days, you leave the ship to explore an Island. As we were disembarking at St. Maarten, I noticed this sign which was posted in the staff section of the ship.
S – Smile and greet
M – Make the difference
I – Involve yourself
L – Lead by example
E – Enhance guests’ experience
It was love at first sight! I think this SMILE acronym is just perfect! What makes it most amazing is that the 1500 staff, from over 50 different countries around the world, all lived and breathed these five principles.
But guess where it started? As always, it started at the top. Like any great leader, the captain of the ship really walked the talk. He lived and breathed these principles in every interaction I saw him have with both guests and his team.
The tone in any organization, even one that takes place at sea, always starts at the top. Conversely, I am working with a client right now who is having issues with one of their departments. What is the issue? Well the leader of this team is rude and abrasive. Unfortunately, people are leaving his team because they find his department to be a stifling place in which to work.
So, what did I learn from the captain of the ship? Well, he reinforced a few things that I already knew, including the following concepts:
- Whether the organization is large or small, on water or on land, leaders set the tone
- If leaders expect people to behave in a certain way, they must walk the talk
- Clarity around behavioural expectations leads to implementation of those behaviours. Lack of clarity leads to inconsistency and confusion.
Can you imagine what the workplace would be like if every leader used S.M.I.L.E as a guide for their behaviour? I can guarantee one thing, engagement rates in organizations would soar. How can you implement some of the S.M.I.L.E principles in your leadership practice?