I’d like to start this post with a story about some great leaders I had the privilege to know and work with.
As you probably know, I published my book Winning Customer Centricity a few years ago. And being the customer centric champion that I am, I wanted to ensure that people could buy it in whatever format they preferred.
This meant offering hardback, paperback and Kindle versions, but not only. It also involved recording an audiobook. Now you’re probably thinking, as I myself did going into the recording studio, “How difficult is it to read out loud?” Well, I can tell you that when you have to do it right, it is damn hard!
I went for my first day of recording with not much more preparation than getting my book printed off. What a mistake! Luckily we had technical problems, and Tony Johnston, an Aussie now living in Switzerland, who was helping me with the project, decided to re-record the first part a week or so later.
That extra time gave me the chance to make two invaluable decisions. Firstly, to get some coaching from two incredibly talented – and patient – actors, namely Pamela Salem and Michael O’Hagan (recently deceased) of Miami Beach.
Secondly, to better prepare myself by reading the book aloud several times and then marking it up with pauses, emphases and other relevant notes to make it a more pleasant listening experience.
However, after successfully recording the first half of the book, I again fell back into my usual way of presentation mode on the second day, and Tony, once again, generously offered to re-record it.
So I returned to my dream team of coaches in Florida and did some intensive voice training and exercises. And lucky for me – and Tony – it was third time lucky. You can judge for yourself by listening to a sample on Amazon HERE.
By now, you’re probably thinking, “Nice story, Denyse, but what does all of this have to do with me as a leader and for my business?” I’m glad you asked! Let me answer by simply saying, “A lot!”
Here are some easily applied learnings that will make your leadership style more efficient and effective, no matter your industry. And in addition, by adopting all seven behaviours that I am suggesting, you will portray a more customer-centric style and become an even greater leader yourself.
1. We should never stop learning
As we rise in the corporate world, we seem to forget that we don’t know it all! We sometimes even think we should have all the answers, or worse still, believe we do!
I’m often quoted as saying
“A day without learning is a day without living”
and I truly believe and live by that statement.
We must continuously strive to learn and challenge our everyday habits and behaviours. Lifelong learning should be everyone’s mantra.
This has become particularly important today because technological advances are occurring almost daily. We need to constantly rethink the way we work. We should adapt and integrate those technologies that could improve our business processes. But perhaps even more important is to ignore those that will not benefit our work. That is often the harder choice to make.
2. We should accept help
Some people find it hard to ask for help or even to accept it when it is offered. This is foolish since we cannot be experts in every business area. In fact, if we lead a team, whether just a few people or many thousands, we should, above all else, be excellent people managers.
You can never know as much as everyone under you; that isn’t your job. So stop always trying to be correct. Ask for the help and advice of the clever people you hired, and then take the right decision based on their input.
Great leaders understand this and surround themselves with experts in different areas where they may need support. Are you a great leader?
3. Practice really does make perfect
It’s not only perfectionists that think they’re never good enough. (Does anyone else want to put their hand up with me and admit this trait?)
We should always strive to be the best we can be. If this means that we have to practice our presentation ten times when all our colleagues only do it a couple of times, then so be it. We’re all different; perhaps they have a talent for speaking, or maybe they are just satisfied with a less polished performance than we are.
We should never compare ourselves to others, only to our previous selves. That’s what outstanding leadership is all about; showing rather than telling.
4. That final check is always worth it
When I was learning to fly, my instructor never stopped prompting me to complete the pre-flight checks and how important it was to do them thoroughly. He reminded me that it’s too late once you’re in the air!
The same goes for meetings, events and conferences once they’ve started. Make and use checklists, as pilots do, and complete that final check wholly and thoroughly.
You can rarely recover from anything that’s missing once you’ve started, or if you can, it will take far more effort and resources than making that final check before your event takes flight.
5. Accept defeat and mistakes
We’re all human, so we all make mistakes sometimes and get defeated occasionally. However, those mistakes and failures are great teachers.
If we learn and grow from them, the pain involved should be short-lived as we move on to bigger and better things.
One of my favourite quotes from Edison is
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
View errors as opportunities to learn and grow. In fact, the people who don’t do this make the actual mistake – and a BIG one at that.
Also, as a leader, instead of punishing mistakes, encourage their sharing so that others won’t have to make the same ones in order to learn the lessons. A healthy business environment is one in which failure is celebrated just as much as success.
A naturally optimistic person, Tony reminded me of this after our first “disastrous” session. He said:
“Don’t dwell on past deceptions, Denyse. Think about what you learned; what actually developed your skills.”
6. Honesty is always the best policy
Somehow honesty is rarely discussed these days, And yet we all know that trust is one of the main reasons people do business with companies.
Therefore it seems odd that we speak a lot about trust but rarely about honesty.
Dishonest behaviour is quickly known in today’s world of immediate sharing of experiences on social media. Therefore it continues to amaze me that companies try to cheat their customers. Read more about this topic in the post “How to cheat the customer – or not!”
It is so much easier, to be honest than to recover from an act that was not. And the trust built over the long term will enable companies to be forgiven for any occasional mishap that may occur.
7. Business isn’t only about millennials
Everyone is speaking about the Millenials these days; this is the generation, also known as “Gen Y” or “Generation Me”, generally accepted as having been born since 1980, after “Gen X.”
While Millenials may be trendy, other groups are arguably more profitable to consider for a successful business.
For example, 2020 was an important year for the population in the US, because there were more Millenials than Baby Boomers for the first time. In addition, the first Gen Xs turned fifty.
A great article in TIME Magazine, written way back in 2014, already highlighted several key points that would impact businesses in the future. While the article speaks primarily about the importance of Gen X, Baby Boomers are also considered as important since they are usually a larger group in most developed countries and generally also richer.
Another article in Forbes about Generation Zers provides some interesting statistics on their size, wealth and spending. It discusses how mature consumers are changing the landscape of the digital world we live in.
As they mention, Generation Z is the most digitally savvy generation yet and cannot imagine a world without it. Although millennials “grew up with the Internet,” Gen Z appears to have a very positive relationship with technology.
So we must remember ageing has taken on a whole new meaning with the internet. It is no longer so clear-cut between generations. Therefore it is certainly worth taking a moment to evaluate whether you are ignoring certain customer groups merely because of their age.
BONUS: #8 Prepare for the Unthinkable
I would encourage all leaders to revise their vision with these seven points in mind.
But I’d like to add a bonus idea that will truly impact the success of an organisation by preparing it for future challenges. And we all know that the world is constantly changing and usually not in the ways we expect.
To face such uncertainty, I tell my clients that they should not be content with following the latest fads and trends. Everyone is doing the same thing, so there is no real competitive advantage in doing so. Instead, I encourage them to work with future scenario planning; and you should too.
These are just a few of the ways that the great leaders I have had the privilege to meet and advise, make a real difference in their organisations. I hope you have been inspired to make a few changes in your own thinking.
Which is your favourite one? Which do most leaders struggle to implement? If you have something to add, then please do leave a comment; the more challenging, the better!
This post first appeared on C3Centricity: you can read it https://c3centricity.com/what-great-leaders-know/