Over the past several months I have battled with a conundrum. I have always believed that successful companies take care of their customers. I have strongly encouraged my entire team to put our customers first. I have been known on several occasions to quote the old adage “It costs a lot to win a new client and nothing to lose one.” I can easily remember bending over backwards time after time to deliver beyond a customer’s expectations because I felt the relationship was too important to jeopardise. Years ago, when I led the delivery of several Lottery implementations I clearly remember driving the team so hard that I caused burnout in both myself and my team. But what did we achieve? The team either fragmented due to the pressure or learnt to do only as much as was needed to avoid the consequences.
My conundrum was to find a better way to deliver more without destroying the team.
Ted Coine last week inspired me to write a blog post entitled “My Job is to make your job easier.” The inspiration came from the crystallisation of thought… create an environment where your employees like to work and want to work and they will make sure your customers’ needs are fulfilled; often beyond their expectations. I have worked this strategy for several years but never put it in to perspective. So I thank Ted for bringing clarity.
During my career, as I matured and grew as a manager I found that learning to say no was an important skill. I learnt to question the relevance of customer deadlines in a way that was non-confrontational. I learnt to set expectations around dates that meant the team was either right-sized or the plan was achievable.
In later years, I learnt that turning things upside down and placing my team first is a better strategy. It is a stratergy worthy of a leader. Ted in his recent Sustainable Business Forum develops this thought further in this posting. In the article he discusses concepts that he calls “the value zone” and “the enabling functions.” Ted describes the value zone as every customer-facing aspect of the business; because customers find these interactions valuable, the business should as well. The enabling functions are the dichotomy; the inward facing parts of the business that enables the workers in the value zone to do their jobs and serve the customer. The enabling functions are clearly important, and much-needed but often seen as secondary to the value zone.
I am striving to give equal value to my client facing value zone team and my back-office enabling functions. I truly believe that if I can get this right everything else takes care of itself.
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