Checking In: A book review by Bob Morris

Checking In: Hospitality-Driven Thinking, Business, and You
Stephen J. Cloobeck
Greenleaf Book Group Press (October 2018)

Why and how all of the greatest organizations are driven by fulfilling customer needs

As I began to read Stephen Cloobeck’s book, I was reminded of two others, both business classics: Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell’s Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force (2002) and Barbara Bund’s The Outside-In Corporation: How to Build a Customer-centric Organization from Breakthrough Results (2005).

Cloobeck is quite correct: all of the greatest organizations are driven by fulfilling their customers’ needs. They “have identified intrinsic human needs — the hunger for information, the desire for creativity, the need for connection, the pull toward progress — that they’ve set out to fill in their own way, on their own terms…That’s hospitality.”

Employees’ needs are also important. Here is a critically important point: When asked during major surveys to identify what is most important to them, customers as well as employees rank “feeling appreciated” either first or second. What about price and compensation? They’re ranked somewhere between ninth and thirteen. I agree with Cloobeck: the most successful businesses and business leaders of tomorrow will be driven by hospitality-driven thinking, even — or rather especially — if they’re not in the hospitality sector.”

Cloobeck identifies and examines five (not a covey of seven) principles of hospitality:

1. Focus unrelentingly on the customer: Understand the differences between eating a meal and having a dining experience.

2. Commit to continuous improvement: Not only will what got you here keep you here, it won’t be good enough to let you stay here.

3. Empower the periphery: All of the defeated gladiators stood up and proclaimed “I am Spartacus!” That same spirit is alive and well in the companies annually ranked among those that are most highly admired and best to work for. Also among those that are most profitable, with the greatest cap value in their sector.

4. Ensure total alignment: The most important are the best interests of a company with its customers’ and the best interests of that company with its employees’.

5. Do well by doing good: Herb Kelleher said it best years ago when asked to explain Southwest Airlines’ exceptional success: “We take great care of our people, they take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care of our shareholders.”

“The Meaning of Yes” is one of Cloobeck’s most interesting concepts. In essence, it motivates people to say “YES! to challenges, to (smart) risk, to making a difference, to taking on more responsibility (not just because you can but because you should). YES! to partaking in something bigger than yourself. YES! to setting the example you hope others will emulate. YES! to not just teaching but also to learning from those who who work for you and with you. YES! to putting principles and people over profit as you discover, all the while, how prioritizing [begin italics] values [end italics] is the cornerstone of your company’s bottom-line value.”

Long ago, Socrates suggested that an unexamined life is not worth living. According to Plato, he was constantly checking in on what he thought and felt, and enjoyed nothing more than to goad others to do the same. I think that is what Cloobeck has in mind when commending checking in to his reader. Hospitality-driven thinking is driven by a modern version of the Socratic method: How can I help others — especially my associates — to accelerate their personal growth and professional development? How can I add greater value to the companies entrusted to my care? How can I become more worthy of others’ respect and trust? How can I become a more gracious and a more generous host?

And here are questions I ask myself several times a day: When with others, am I actively engaged or merely involved? Do I observe and listen at least 80% of the time? (After all, I have two eyes and two ears but only one mouth.) How do I make others feel about themselves?

Tough questions need to be asked. Although “yes” may be the correct answer to several but there is always room for personal growth, especially in terms of strengthening people skills. Stephen Cloobeck has given me a great deal to think about…including HOW to think about thinking…and WHAT to consider or reconsider after many years of evasion or delusion. Thank you.




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