In a recent conversation with Jeanne Bliss, a fellow observer, author and advisor on how businesses grow through customer focus and experience, we mused that among many of the problems that face organizations, trying to create a stand out customer experience, is the need for a different sort of leadership, one that is more connected to both their employees and customers.
This was echoed by Katherine LaVelle, Managing Director and North America Lead for Talent & Organization at Accenture Strategy, who told me recently about their New Rules For Engagement research. They found that leaders will have to embrace a more balanced leadership approach blending left and right brain skills if they are to be successful going forward. Further, they found that a full 65% of the C suite population surveyed are weak in areas like empathy, self-awareness, intuition and relationship building. Moreover, if they harness these skills, then they can expect to see, on average, 22% higher revenue growth and 34% higher profitability growth.
However, the challenge for the C-suite does not stop at the need to build individual skills.
Jeanne believes that the C-suite has a unity problem:
“If you don’t unite the C-suite, everybody comes in with a different version of the truth. Everyone has a completely different perspective on where you are today, on what the KPIs are based on their internally-driven KPIs for their part of the organization. And we haven’t united the language of leaders which changes how they drive the accountability to customers and employees, and what they hold people accountable to.”
I think Jeanne has a point and this is something I explored in my recent book, Punk CX. In it, I included a letter to CEOs that said:
London Business School, in their 2017 Business Leaders Survey, found that of all the senior executives that they spoke to nearly 60% reported regular conflict and in-fighting within the senior team, as each C-Suite executive pursued their own agenda.
Now, if senior executives are noticing this about themselves, their own organizations, their colleagues and their own senior team then you can be pretty sure that everyone else in their organizations would have noticed these problems too.
So, how can employees be expected to be more engaged and work more effectively together towards the common goal of delivering great service and experience when they see in-fighting and conflict within their senior team?
While every member of the C-suite has their part to play, ultimately it is your team and your responsibility to make sure that everyone is aligned, focused and pulling in the same direction.
Your people and your customers are waiting.
[Sign your name and send]”
While the page in the book was styled as a letter and invited readers to tear it out, sign it and to send it to the CEO of their organization I am not sure if anyone would be brave enough to sign and send the letter. And, that’s fine.
More than anything, it was intended to poke fun at the dysfunction that many see within their senior teams.
But, the message was serious.
The alignment of an organization’s senior team has a massive impact on overall performance and their ability to deliver an outstanding customer experience. Developing and harnessing the sort of behaviors and skills identified by Accenture Strategy in their research would undoubtedly help with that and would allow leaders to not only connect better with each other but also with their employees and customers.
I’d like to see more of that in the coming year and, at this time of goodwill and unity, that seems like a reasonable request.