Category Archives: Leadership Strategies
I made a quick trip into a well-known retailer this week and was appalled at what transpired immediately when I entered.
One manager, walking towards me, looked right at me and kept walking. A second manager, just past this first, looked at me as I made eye contact with him, stared at me for about 2 seconds, then promptly turned and walked away.
No greeting. No “Hello, Welcome to…”. No focus on the customer experience at all.
If one of their competitors, small business or large, decided to up their game and greet their customers at the door and ensure even a small level of engagement throughout the store, they would put this established location out of business.
Customers want to feel acknowledged. It’s the basic tenet in many studies of behavior. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs addresses this in both the Belonging and Esteem levels. Hyrum Smith, of Franklin Planner fame, expresses this in the Needs Wheel of The Reality Model.
And yet many many leaders fail to model this basic behavior.
That’s why even a little focus on the customer experience will enable an organization to crush it and create raving fans.
When the focus is on either the bottom line, getting the job done, or surviving through the day, your customers feel it and are likewise impacted. Even elderly people with dementia or diminished senses in a nursing home sense when they are treated poorly or ignored.
Making your customers and those you cater to feel engaged always makes the difference.
If you want your leadership and your organization to stand out, and to crush it in a day where customer experience is largely lacking, then make them feel special and create even the smallest of differences in their experience.
Because that’s what you want when you are a customer. It’s one of our basic needs.
Companies are striving to develop and market their story as a way to connect with their customers and boost differentiation in the marketplace.
While that is a terrific strategy to grow, a word of caution should be in order – if your business is not-so-terrific, it may be wise to get your house in order first.
Over the years I’ve observed:
- Growing tech companies that crush it in sales yet cannot service customers once they’re onboarded like they used to
- Restaurant chains who strut their brand with a pomp that does not connect with their customers or their employees
- Healthcare organizations that talk of great patient care yet hide unethical business and regulatory practices
- Leaders that oversell their company to customers and shareholders and under deliver on making the internal workings of the organization efficient or lessening workplace stress
A few years ago I talked with the executive team of a respected and growing organization. They had a well established brand and were looking to get their story known throughout their markets.
As I talked with them, I discovered that they were too focused on building their story and neglected the core fundamentals of their operation, sound business practices, and poor leadership and team development. It seemed the more I implored them to see the trajectory, the more that they were clueless to where they were headed. Sure enough, 6 years later, their market share is declining. And what are they doing to combat their sales slide? They are doubling down on their tradition and their story even more.
Your story is like the exterior of our house – if the foundation is crumbling, then no amount of paint or external work can salvage it. Businesses are the same way – the external story accounts for nothing if the company cannot function efficiently, service its customers properly, or grow and develop people.
Your company’s story only matters if there is real evidence of it to everyone in public. Overstating your achievements, or just promoting what you can do when customers and staff members know otherwise leads to disengagement, declining sales, and loss of confidence in the marketplace.
You should only focus on your story when your structure is solid and all the mechanisms are in working order. Things don’t have to be perfect, but working well enough to have an honest assessment within and without the organization, in order that your story will augment and bring people – employees and customers alike – into your brand to improve and build it alongside you.
Start with the Why. Then perfect the How. When those are solid, then you can focus on the “About”.
One of the most tremendous truths about being human is how our thoughts, feelings, and desires interconnect.
Through our internal connectedness of mind, body, and soul, we can harness greatness within ourselves and develop each aspect to become stronger and more in tune with the other aspects.
Yet our humanness comes with a flaw, in that we can get our feelings out of proportion to rational thinking. When that occurs, we are governed by only one part of us which, if not checked and balanced with the rest of our being, can lead us and others astray.
Feelings are great for motivation, inspiration, and drive. But many people that live solely off of motivational seminars find themselves flat when they try to be in touch with their feelings much to the exclusion of their thoughts.
This can also be true of those who spend time in fear or worry and let those emotions override their actions. Too many times leaders are led by their feelings, and not their minds.
That is where leaders need to consciously and consistently track their thoughts, and not just their feelings.
REAL LIFE SCENARIOS BASED ON LEADING BY FEELINGS
- A senior executive afraid of unfounded circumstances that calls meetings to solve problems that don’t exist
- A new department manager who is agitated that things are done a differing way than what they’ve done in other companies
- A shift supervisor who is worried that certain company actions mean they will be laid off
- An employee who doubts the sincerity of leadership even though there is open and clear communication
In each of the scenarios, the following feeling-statements took over rational thinking…
- “I feel…”
- “We’re afraid…”
- “We suspect…”
- “I can’t believe…”
- “You don’t see…”
These feelings, without being run through the proper process of thought and facts, can cause wrong actions, disengagement, and toxic culture to manifest. What is needed to happen with each feeling is to manage the feeling-statements through thinking-statements such as the following…
- “This shows…”
- “We know that…”
- “The studies reveal…”
- “Our culture supports…”
- “The reality is…”
- “I have found…”
When you or a colleague start to descend into making decisions driven by irrational feelings, it’s best to practice this two-prong approach as a standard action:
STOP & THINK
By stopping how we feel long enough to think through our emotions and process the facts at hand, one can find a balance between gut feelings, emotions, sound process, and being rational. We can bring our feelings into their proper place, and then use the right feelings to propel our plan of action.
As leaders, we should be in touch with our feelings – and those of our people – but be governed by sound thinking on what we always know to be right. When our emotions take us away from what we know to be true and correct, we fail to utilize our entire selves in our influence.
Fear has its place when it spurs us away from complacency. Excitement is right when it opens the doors to goals and innovation. Our feelings have their place when they intertwine with right thinking to create a stronger rope which we can give our teams to help us pull together.
Be led by right thinking. Infuse people with the right feelings. Help you and your teams stop and think throughout their day.
(images: dynamikhgynaika.gr, anaman.net)
(this post originally appeared in Lead Change Group)