The concept of “ethic” is a philosophy or perspective that is so deeply imbedded it shapes what a person considers “right” or “wrong.” We speak of a work ethic as an outlook that drives initiative and ambition. Soldiers may not enter military service with a patriotic ethic, but most quickly develop one. They get a lump in their throat when the flag is raised or patriotic music is played; they are quick to defend allegiance to country when someone speaks ill of it.
Service can be an “ethic”—shaping how customers are viewed and honored. People who work for organizations like Zappos.com, Nordstrom or Ritz-Carlton Hotels are selected for their capacity to demonstrate a service ethic and then placed in a culture that nurtures that ethic. It is much more than simply “drinking the company Kool-Aid.” A true service effort is not like a uniform you don when going to work. It is expressed in service to family, friends and community. Service-centered organizations value a philanthropic spirit. They celebrate service heroes who go the extra mile. Such organizations are led by people who are generous in word and deed. Employees who are greedy, territorial, and self-centered stand out as out-of-place and soon are just that.
We were working at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples. In our “always looking for a story” mode, we asked our waiter at breakfast what she like most about working at the Ritz. Without hesitation, she said, “It has made me a better mother and wife.” We were meeting with the Vice Chairman of Freeman Company, a company renowned for great service in the exhibition and convention services industry. She came to our afternoon meeting in jeans having spent the morning volunteering with Meals on Wheels. Research shows a strong relationship between giver organizations and their reputations with customers. The reverse is also true.