Clients Do Not Come First

dreamstime_m_49136428By Jason Questor
Managing Partner, Programs and Practices

Organizational executives have been doggedly repeating the mantra for decades – “The customer comes first”. And what has been the result? Far too often and in far too many organizations large and small, it means that those who directly serve the client / customer are seen by management as mere means to an end – not much more than meat machines.

Year after year, the studies pile up and are duly reported on by business publications. With the exception of a few bright star organizations, employee morale and engagement scores continue to be weak across all private and public sectors globally. The standard shopping list of recommendations of what leaders and managers must do to fix the situation gets trotted out, again and again. Social media fills up with memes about the “boss from hell”. Company reviews on sites like Glass Door sometimes give pause to job seekers, and you lose that key talent before you even meet them.

Obvious Fact: disengaged, unhappy, unappreciated people are unlikely to be ideal ambassadors and advocates for your products and services, and unlikely to be motivated, other than by fear or deeply held personal integrity and values, to be providing your clients and customers with outstanding service.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first.
If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”
Richard Branson

Richard Branson’s business acumen and insight is legendary, and his belief that it is the employees who must come first sounds at first, to many ears, like heresy. And yet his wisdom immediately rings as truth. What does this actually mean in terms of action items for you as a business leader, manager, champion, mentor and coach?

  1. Find out what those words up there mean insofar as how they integrate with your ideal you: leader, manager, champion, mentor, coach. How much of each of these are you being and doing on a day to day business? How much should you be doing to create and sustain people engagement and passion? This ties directly into how much discretionary effort your people are willing to provide. Do they do only the bare minimum to not get into trouble or do they bring everything they’ve got to their work? This links directly to your ability to attract and retain key talent. And oh, it also reflects directly on you, your personal and professional reputation, and your own future prospects.
  2. Find out what kind of a culture you are creating and reinforcing every single day, in every meeting, communication or other interaction with your people. While everyone owns culture, it is your decisions, expressed attitudes and behaviour that have, by far, the greatest impact on culture. Sit down and have a think about this. Discuss it with your peers.  Figure out what you and they need to be and do to close the gap between what your culture looks like and what you want it to be.
  3. Find out what those very impressive Vision, Mission and Values statements mean in terms of strategy execution, all the way down through programs, projects and everyday work. Make the links. Work with your people so that they know how these grand thoughts translate to what they do on the job every day.
  4. Delegate effectively and well. Develop your people through ever higher levels of involvement with initiatives of strategic value, not just tactical or operational Inbox tasks. Know the differences among delegating, assigning, giving orders and dumping.
  5. Coach, mentor and train your people every day with every means at your disposal. Invest in them and make your investment very visible. Respect, recognize and reward growth, not just goal achievement. Again, as Richard Branson said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
  6. If you are doing it right, you see yourself and you are seen as a member of the team, not someone outside of it.
  7. Stop saying “I” when you talk about organizational achievements. No matter how awesome you are or think you are, you did not do it all by yourself. Start saying “We”.
  8. Stop saying “You” when things don’t work out as planned. Your people received their initial and ongoing direction from you. Start saying “We”.

And if I may be allowed one more quote to wrap all this up, let’s hear from Mahatma Gandi:

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

From Alpha Guerilla:The Leadership Lessons ©2015 Jason Questor

ACHIEVEBLUE’s Culture, Leadership and Management Development practices merge the world’s most powerful and widely used culture assessments with in-depth analysis, debriefing, action planning and training services to enable you to create and sustain the organizational culture that creates success. Click here for more information, or call Mona Mitchell or Jason Questor at 416-236-3005.