Put Away Your Smartphones and Look Each Other In the Eye!

I recently did some work for Menard’s, the fabulously successful home improvement store company headquartered in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Although primarily located in the Midwest region, Menard’s is a powerful brand, dedicated to service and quality. They are on the move and Home Depot and Lowe’s should be on the lookout.

While touring a Menard’s retail store with one of their senior executives, we came across a display of recently delivered bed mattresses on the main floor. Seeking to be the ever-connected consultant, I posed a question that led to the following discussion:

“How many springs are in the mattress and how do they compare to your competition?”

Given that the product was new to Menard’s, he didn’t know the answer, but offered, “Once I get back to my office, I’ll look it up and let you know.”

I countered with, “Why don’t you just use your smartphone right now and look up the specs online?”

“We don’t allow phones on the store floor. That goes for everyone, from our front-line clerks and employees, to senior executives.” With a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, he continued, “You’re not an employee, so feel free to use your phone and look it up.”

Lesson learned. This is precisely why Menard’s doesn’t suffer the same problem plaguing countless other retailers; their employees connect with customers because they’re not preoccupied with their cell phones! From grooming standards to cell phone use, Menard’s has crystal clear values and policies that are followed by all.

Far too many executives are quick to blame younger, front line employees for being disrespectful and not following policies. I encourage those same executives to assess the culture of their organization. What kind of role models are your leaders, middle managers and supervisors?

Here’s another example of a CEO who gets it. Craig Culver is the sharp-as-a-tack, co-founder of the rapidly expanding Culver’s restaurant chain. With over 500 restaurants and millions of passionate customers, Craig sums up his leadership secrets:

1)      “I get out and touch tables.”

2)      “I live by the motto: put away your smartphones and look each other in the eye.

Coincidentally Culver’s, like Menard’s, is based in Wisconsin. The leaders of both of these great organizations are the embodiment of: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  The folks in Wisconsin know what this means, it’s about time the rest of the country caught on.