Shopping Cart Moments: How Small Choices Make a Big Culture Impact
I recently read a study about why people choose to return their shopping carts after they’re done shopping. Returning a cart is a small action, but the decision of whether or not to do so seemed to align with how we live our values at Spreetail.
If you look at the team members who have been recognized for living out our values, the celebrated behaviors are just the tip of the iceberg. If you follow the people who are recognized in a Wednesday morning meeting or as Employee of the Month, you will find them regularly making the right choices in the small moments just as much as the big ones. In fact, it’s the practice of making the right decisions in the small moments that prepares them to make the right decisions in the big moments.
In the shopping cart study, these people would fall into the category of “Always Returners.” Always Returners put their shopping carts back every single time. It could be raining or snowing, or they may have parked a significant distance away from a cart return, but they always put their cart back. In the study, they interviewed these Always Returners to find out why they were compelled to return their carts, and their responses were surprisingly consistent. They didn’t return their cart simply because someone told them to, or because they would face any kind of consequence for not returning it. They made the right choice because of the impact it would have on other people. Some considered the impact on the cart attendant who would have to hunt down their rogue cart. Others worried that the cart may roll away and cause damage to someone else’s car. And some were concerned that someone would be driving around a crowded parking lot, thinking that they had discovered an empty space, only to find it occupied by a lonely cart (my personal pet peeve).
These people understood the larger impact of their smaller actions, which drove them to make the right choice, even in the small moments. Leaving the cart had no immediate negative impact to them personally, but the feeling of connection beyond themselves was their driving factor.
This made me curious about our Always Returners here at Spreetail. Those people who live out our values of Be Relentless, Practice Humility, Raise Your Bar, Pursue Challenges, Act Like an Owner, and Make Spreetail Better, no matter what. What drives them to make the right choices, even in the small moments? I reached out to a number of team members who had been recognized for living our values over the past quarter and asked why they choose these actions. I found the answers to be very similar:
Jamaal C., recognized for Pursue Challenges, said that he sees living our values to be the driving force behind his impact on the business and the people around him.
Laura B., recognized for Raise Your Bar, talked about how living the values is a no-brainer because she knows that others count on her.
Chad K., recognized for Make Spreetail Better, said that he thinks about the impact on our organization, as well as how he can make the community better.
Francis R., recognized for Act Like an Owner, said that he lives out our values because of the impact it has on our customers and that it teaches others to care about what they do.
None of the individuals I spoke with mentioned anything resembling a selfish reason, or an impact on them personally. They all tied these actions to the bigger picture. They don’t live out our values because of personal gain, or because someone told them to. They understand how doing so affects the people around them, and the connection it has to our success.
It’s important to remember that the connection to success is where these pieces of our mantra started. They aren’t just phrases that sounded neat or put on our wall for decoration. They are the definitions of behaviors that have made us successful in the past and will continue to make us successful in the future.
The final piece about shopping carts that I’ll mention is that this study identified another group who they called “Sometimes Returners.” A Sometimes Returner was a person who put their cart back some of the time, but not all the time, usually based on convenience. For this group, one of the determining factors for whether or not they decided to make the right decision and put their cart away was whether or not they saw someone else returning their cart on the way out of the store. If they saw someone making the right choice, their likelihood of making the right choice drastically increased. If they saw someone leaving their cart, their chances of returning their cart drastically decreased. The actions of others were a social cue to them, and were a driver of their actions.
If we want to continue to drive our culture forward, we have to make the right choices. Not doing the little things may seem insignificant, but they matter. Other people notice and follow suit, one way or the other. Not consistently making the right choices, puts our culture and our company at great risk. If we all continue to make the right choices, and shine a light on the right choices that other people make, we give ourselves a much better chance.
I’ll leave you with a challenge. Think about your “Shopping Cart Moments,” those choices between making a positive impact or a negative impact that you face every day, no matter how small. Is it the opportunity to give the feedback that could help someone succeed in their role? Is it the challenge you take on that solves the problem that makes the lives of your teammates easier? Maybe it’s choosing to put your phone away in the breakroom and make a connection with someone new, helping them feel more comfortable and engaged here at Spreetail. Maybe it’s as simple as greeting someone at the door, throwing trash away, or volunteering when someone needs help.
Whatever it is for you, I’d encourage you to consider the impact of thousands of small, right choices being made over the next 90 days. Think about how those right choices strengthen and drive our culture forward. Then, make the right choices and help us make Spreetail a place where people always return their cart.
Note: This post originated as a speech at Spreetail’s Q2 All Hands Meeting in April 2018.
I'm a Learning and Development professional who is passionate about healthy work cultures, teams that thrive, and getting in way over my head with DIY projects.