I’d like to start this post with a story about some great leaders. As you 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 wherever they were and in whatever format they preferred.
This meant offering hardback, paperback and Kindle versions. It also involved recording an audiobook. Now you’re probably thinking, as I myself did going into it, “How difficult is it to read out loud?”
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, who helped me with the project, decided to redo the first part again a week or so later.
That extra time gave me the chance to do two invaluable things. Firstly, to get some coaching from two incredibly talented – and patient! – actors, Pamela Salem and Michael O’Hagan. Secondly, to better prepare myself by reading the book out loud several times, and then marking it up with pauses, emphases and other notes, to make the recording more agreeable to the listener.
However, after successfully recording the first half of the book, I again fell back into my usual ways of presentation mode on the second day, and Tony once again, generously offered to re-record it. So I went back to my dream team of coaches, 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.
By now, you’re probably thinking “Nice story Denyse, but what does all of this have to do with me and my business?”
Great question; let me answer it by simply saying “A lot!” Read on, to find my easily applied learnings that will make your leadership style more efficient and effective, no matter what industry you work in. And in addition, by adopting all seven behaviours, you will be portraying a more customer centric style and become a great 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 that we should have all the answers, or worse still, believe that we do!
I’m often quoted as saying:
“A day without learning is a day without living”
It’s vital that we continuously strive to keep learning and challenging our every-day habits and behaviours. Lifelong learning should be everyone’s mantra.
This has become increasingly important because technical advances are coming almost daily, so we need to constantly rethink the way we work. We should be adapting and integrating those technologies which could improve our business processes.
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 an expert in every area of business. In fact if we lead a team, whether just a few people or many thousands, we should above all else, be an excellent people manager.
You can never know as much as everyone under you and that isn’t your job. So stop trying to always be right. Ask the help and advice of the clever people you hired and then make 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?
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3. Practice really does make perfect
It’s not only perfectionists that think they’re never good enough. (Anyone else putting their hand up with me to 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 and 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. Thats what great leadership is all about; showing rather than telling.
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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 once you’re in the air, it’s too late!
The same goes for meetings, events and conferences once they’ve started. Make and use checklists, like pilots do, and complete that final check thoroughly and completely.
You can rarely recover from anything that’s missing once you’ve started, or if you can, it will take far more effort 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 defeats are great teachers.
If we learn and grow from them, then 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 it’s the people who don’t do this, who make the real 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.
Tony, a naturally positive person, 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 not honesty.
In today’s world of immediate sharing of experiences on social media, dishonest behaviour is quickly known. 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 longterm will enable companies to be forgiven for any occasional mishap that may occur.
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7. Business isn’t only about millenials
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, there are other groups which are arguably more profitable to consider for a successful business.
For example, 2020 was an important year for the population in the US, because for the first time, there were more Millenials than Baby Boomers. 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.
Aging has taken on a whole new meaning with the internet. It is no longer so clear cut between generations. So 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. I will be sharing my 10-step process in an upcoming post so I suggest you watch out for it if you want to learn more about the topic.
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.
If you have something to add, then please do leave a comment; the more challenging the better!