Customer Focus And The Leader As Servant
With all of the things that companies are doing today to become more customer focused, you don’t often hear what that exactly means to the organization and its leadership. To help with that, I would like to offer some perspective on what makes leaders customer focused, and some tips on what you can do to help your own organization improve in this area. In particular, how do we develop customer focused leadership that supports business operations and the people that deliver customer focused products and services?
The Right Perspective
I like to think about customer focus as understanding “who works for who”? Specifically, in a customer focused organization, leadership works for everyone in what is commonly referred to as the “line of sight” to the customer. It holds standards that say, “If it doesn’t serve external customers then why are we doing it?” For example, if a process is developed and it doesn’t add value to external customers then why are we using it? If our people don’t have the tools and training to deliver on customer expectations then why aren’t we providing them?
I am a big fan of the tales of King Arthur. Noteworthy in the movie First Knight was when King Arthur offered Lancelot a seat at the round table. In addition, he offered him the honored leadership position of First Knight. Kin Arthur said, “I offer you a life of service.” I will never forget those words. They reminded me that leadership is a life of service.
There are three roles a leader plays in building a customer focused company, agency or school. First, actively build a culture that motivates and encourages employees to behave and create with the customer in mind – to understand and satisfy the needs of their external and internal customers. Second, remove obstacles to affect necessary change and support their people in adopting new skills and methods. Third, listen to and communicate with their people about the customer. For an organization to become customer focused, everyone must model the behavior.
In conclusion, building culture, removing obstacles and communicating effectively are the three key leadership roles that help build customer focus. If you would like help strengthening your customer focused leadership practices, see our Customer Focus Services page or Contact Us.
Skills Corner: Tips for Customer Focus
Leaders as Coaches
In today’s complex business environment, effective leaders and managers recognize the importance of developing their employees’ capabilities. They understand that developing others requires that they apply their coaching skills. As coaches, they challenge and support their employees in achieving higher levels of performance while increasing their self-confidence and capacity to take effective action.
A strong coach empowers others to be successful by:
This is a continuing process that involves defining and redefining goals as situations, roles, and business conditions change. For example, in weekly or monthly meetings, focus your employees by asking them “What high impact activities will you work on in the next week/month?”
Providing a positive environment
Effective leaders encourage creativity and allow employees to take risks. To instill this, challenge each person to go the next step with a project or task. For example, ask them to identify where they could add additional value and encourage them to take that step.
Delivering useful feedback
Productive feedback is necessary to cultivate and increase performance. To be heard when providing feedback, ask for permission first. In addition, make sure it is a good time and the person is open to hearing the feedback. When delivering feedback, be specific about the facts, behaviors and implications of the action taken. Let the person know you want to support them in using the feedback productively.
Recognizing, appreciating, and celebrating achievements
Honoring achievements builds an atmosphere of encouragement that develops confidence and strength. To be effective, always let the person know why you appreciate what they did. For example, discuss the implications of their work and how it enhanced the image of the group.
When a leader or manager coaches others to their full potential, they will realize many benefits. Importantly, the benefits impact both the individual and the organization. Typically, the individual is better able to make decisions on his own, work collaboratively with others, and solve business issues. Similarly, the organization reaps the benefits of increased productivity, reduced turnover, and creation of a high-performing culture.
At Advance Consulting we have helped many organizations with their goals of developing customer focused leadership. We can help you with your strategy and the work of implementing customer focus in your organization. For more information, see our Customer Focus services page. Or, contact us to discuss your specific needs.