If Yoda Trained the Chief Customer Officer……


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Rogue One, the recently released Star Wars prequel, is getting a lot of attention –especially for bringing back a lot what attracted people around the world when the first movie in the series was introduced almost 40 years ago. Here is the way the plot line of Rogue One has been described: “In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.”

If this quote were not summarizing the screenplay of a space-age adventure, much of the above description could apply to building and sustaining employee ambassadors, so they will succeed in driving outstanding customer experiences, in an enterprise, i.e. “ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.” For facilitating this result with respect to both customer experience and employee experience, there would be no better leadership trainer than Yoda, as CCO mentor and instructor. He said it himself: “Help you I can. Yes.”

Yoda, the wise old Jedi master, is one of my personal totems. In one of the early Star Wars films, the 900 year old warrior and trainer offered his reluctant young student, Luke Skywalker, both inspired instruction and mentoring. What Yoda imparted to Luke is representative of the important role he had in guiding and teaching others to find the self-motivation, commitment, deep talent and intelligence within themselves, to be of service, and to spread their knowledge. As he famously said, “Pass on what you have learned.”

Part of the learning he provided has real relevance for organizations, employees, and customer experience executives. When Yoda said, “You must unlearn what you have learned”, his meaning for this purpose was very clear. Fundamentally, it was that continued application of old and accepted approaches – like employee and customer satisfaction concepts and measurements – is no longer enough to reach important goals, such as optimized, profitable stakeholder experience and behavior.

Yoda also recognized that most individuals tend to be risk-resistant and loss averse; and, in a stakeholder experience and commitment context for CCOs, this could cause them to hold onto antecedent thinking about what drives behavior and decision-making, that is satisfaction and engagement. “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose,” Yoda once said. This is good advice, because it addresses a strong behavioral tendency frequently seen in organizations both large and small.

Some of what CCOs can take from Yoda’s leadership lessons may be summarized as follows:

1. Leaders take the most pride in being the driving force behind the success of others, as individuals or teams. For CCOs, giving employees the enablement, empowerment, and tools is its own reward.

2. Leaders don’t live in castles. They spend much of their time and effort serving stakeholders; and, as both builders and teachers, they are not afraid to get their hands dirty. CCOs, though this behavior, can inspire the rank and file.

3. Leaders like questions to and from students, preferring the Socratic method of learning, by closing insight gaps, honoring the intelligence of stakeholders, and – most of all – getting to truth.

4. Leaders understand the value of ongoing training and coaching, recognizing that there are always new things to learn, and that employees are not always ready to receive new training. As Yoda once said to an exhausted Luke in the midst of his training on Dagobah: “Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions.”

5. Leaders only use their power when absolutely needed. For example, Yoda only used his light saber in extreme circumstances. It was usually enough to recognize that the power was there.

6. Leaders build and extend the culture of service, and the positive influence their organizations have on stakeholders; however, when necessary, they join in the hand to hand combat in which their organizations sometimes engage.

7. Leaders understand that the responsibility for assuring the future is up to them; and when there is stakeholder-related toxicity in their organizations, they must overcome it, be positive, and eliminate negativity. As Yoda said, “Always in motion is the future.” and “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.”

Effective leaders and trainers have definite, singular and distinctive, and often overlapping traits. In Bill George’s great book, Finding Your True North, he identified purpose, values, relationships, self-discipline, and heart as core components of authentic leadership. Yoda represents all of these qualities, understanding that deviation from what is real and authentic in training CCOs will lead them, sooner or later, to the Dark Side.

Yoda is truly the ultimate CCO leadership trainer, seeing realistically over the horizon, and helping others build their experience, knowledge, confidence and effectiveness. His counsel to student CCOs would be that, for any enterprise, focusing on holistic stakeholder experience, and moving to a) emotionally-driven and rationally justified customer value delivery and b) employee ambassadorship (and leaving behind antecedent concepts like employee satisfaction and employee engagement) requires a measure of boldness, plus strategic thought and discipline. Yoda would advise: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

His final reinforcing words to the CCOs in their training would likely be: “Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.”

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.



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