So what's working? What's the good word? As our economy seems to be inching back, who's having success? Who feels good about their job? What companies continue to have raving fans and customer evangelists?
These are the kinds of questions I like to ask especially when I work with companies that what to develop a leadership style that will give them the best chance of success.
Today I want to share with you some of what I've learned.
I've found that the organizations that are having success in being great places to work and great places to do business with have a clear mission and live on purpose (consciously). They're focused on creating value and do it well. Their managers are also leaders who think differently and are open to information and possibility coming from anywhere inside (or outside) the organization. They rely on having the brainpower of dozens of people when they have big choices to make. I'm fond of calling this way of working with people 'Managing to THRIVE!' It's based on the following premises:
- It's about questions - not answers! Leaders today must use great and provocative questions that activate the brilliance in the minds of their employees. They must have a willingness to suspend disbelief and have an open mind to really receive and consider the feedback they receive.
- A variety of styles and paths can take us to the same outcome. Charlotte Shelton, author of Quantum Leaps: 7 Skills for Workplace ReCreation, calls this 'equifinality' meaning a system can reach the same outcome from differing conditions and a variety of paths. This means that there's no such thing as a 'right' answer, so stop looking for them and start looking for creative solutions.
- Confusion and chaos are good. In fact, Charlotte says that chaos is a prerequisite for growth. She writes, "It provides the motion, the energy to break old patterns...Things really do sometimes need to get worse before they can get better. The challenge is to see all life's experiences as learning opportunities." !)
- Business is organic. Organizations are made up of organisms - people - which means that businesses are living systems. When something changes in one part of the system, it affects the other parts of the system. How you treat your employees has a direct effect on how they treat the customers (and probably even how they treat their families and friends). Innovation and evolution are fueled by feedback loops.
- Underlying structures (values, cultures and belief systems) must be changed if we want the changes we're making to be sustainable.
- Business is about relationships, not transactions. You build businesses by building relationships and win/win/wins overall.
- When people feel good at work they do better work.
- We get much better performance when we identify and build on strengths rather than try to fix weaknesses.
- Management and leadership have changed and will continue to change as companies work smarter and leaner and as customers continue to demand highly customized products and services at lower and lower prices.
- The emotional engagement of customers is what will keep them connected to the company and coming back again and again - we must be more emotionally intelligent than ever before.
- We need to discover the right few metrics that matter - that is, matter to the customer - and measure them constantly.
- Engagement and empowerment need to cut across all channels and all silos so the customer's experience will be consistent and easy.
- Different things work in different situations. What worked yesterday probably doesn't work very well today - and will most likely be irrelevant tomorrow. Bottom line: It's important to try different things.
- Tom Peters' advice to "Fail forward fast" is sound. We must be willing to try new things and to abandon them quickly if they are not working and move right on to the next one and the next one until we find our way to success. And in time, we must be willing to abandon our successes as well. To win we must stay ahead of the market.
There's some food for thought- for all you customer care leaders out there. Think about these things - think deeply. The kinds of change that need to happen in our organizations needs to come from this kind of deep consideration. Tips, tricks and techniques are all good to have, but it is our capacity to sit with the big questions, to change from the inside, to cultivate and nourish cultures where people can grow and have good work and customers can feel our caring that will build sustainable businesses.
Manage to THRIVE, and let's get past this "survival" stuff and start moving!