The importance of relationships is generally understood in business. Given there is little opposition to the concept it is easy to assume that all will act accordingly and need little guidance. However, we must be consistently intentional about the Relationships that are built and maintained with our Clients and Team Members. I am fortunate to have been brought up in environments where Relationships were at the forefront of how we cared for Clients and our Team Members, therefore it has always been the #1 focus and I would argue that it is what has made our organization special and attractive. In regards to measurable results: Long-tenured team members, high client retention rates, and consistently performing at the highest level in our sector, are all attributed to our intense focus on Relationships, more than anything else.
Not many people in life give more than they receive (I recommend the book “Go Giver” if you have not read it), but that is exactly how great relationships start and how they are maintained. When this happens, the other side gives back in the form of trust which is the centerpiece of any great relationship. The hardest thing is training on this concept and getting people to really understand what it takes, and then to make sure they start doing it rather than just thinking they are. In regards to our clients, we should make sure to continuously train team members (typically sales will have the most responsibility in this area) on all that they should be doing to build great relationships, and we should inspect their efforts along the way and provide feedback/mentoring as needed. In regards to our team members, every Leader and Manager must have the same level of understanding as to what great relationships are and the commitment required to build them with those they lead, which is the only way for the concept to be ingrained in the organization’s culture.
While the concept of relationships being important is easy to understand, it is also the easiest to ignore in the face of other more tangible challenges. As we grow, our organizations will need new systems, additional team members, and we will confront many new issues. While all of these things should and will change, the one constant has to be our commitment to having the best Relationships with our Clients and our Team Members. Great Relationships will not only get us through it all, they will also be the reason that we lead the way.
As a consumer, have you ever thought… “Did they really just tell me to call someone else”, or “Did they really just make me fill out that form when they have my information right in front of them-don’t they want my business?”.
As organizations grow and become more complex, communication and systems are key in regards to retaining the ability to consistently delight clients, and delighting clients is the only way to grow. In my experience, communication is routinely the problem/solution. Yes, systems are key for long-term sustainability, but the human communication element can fix or break any system. Here are some simple examples:
Bad Client Communication:
- “You will need to contact our X Department”
- “We need you to fill out this application”
Good Client Communication:
- “I am going to go ahead and connect you with support by submitting a ticket on your behalf, so stick with me here. Before I hit submit and give our support team a separate heads up, can you confirm for me that I have captured the issue correctly?”
- “I have all of your info right here, so let me fill that out in an effort to save you time. I will then have you verify/complete the form and we can get everything going asap”
This likely seems like common sense to those who innately focus on delighting clients. However, it is easy for growing organizations to make the mistake of assuming every team member (especially newer team members) understand the commitment to delighting customers; it is something that must be ingrained in our culture, which means it has to be very apparent in the behavior of every person and department in the organization.
It is all about leaving the client/prospective client with positive closure every step of the way. And in those times when the answer is not apparent, recognizing that those are the times to shine as a true partner rather than just a vendor; these are the times that we get to dig in and seize the opportunity to show others the extent of our commitment to serve. I routinely reflect on how strong of a characteristic it is to genuinely CARE; it beats just about any strategy.
This quote is an original from one of my greatest mentors (Lawton Langford). He has impacted me in so many positive ways, and I am thankful that what he has focused on most has been leadership development.
Decision making is easy if the focus is on what is best for you, your department, your business, your family, etc., without considering and highly valuing the impact on other people, organizations, and/or things. The harder, yet more rewarding route is the leadership track which consists of being self-aware, thoughtful, long-term growth oriented, committed to fostering a great culture, and prioritizing the well being and growth of others. We all place a high value on trust, being included, and being cared for; The only way for these to be characteristics of an organization’s culture is for leaders to put their people first. If our actions are aligned with this concept, the actions of our team will be aligned with doing all that is required for continuous success.
No leader has success without the loyalty, drive, ingenuity, and tenacity of the other leaders on their team. The role of a “leader of leaders” is to mentor/motivate, challenge, and hold them accountable, but we must not forget to routinely let them know how much they are appreciated. Similarly, we should show appreciation to those who lead us as well. Just think of when someone you lead, or someone who leads you, takes the time to ask how things are going and/or proactively lets you know how much you are appreciated. How does that make you feel?
While it is so easy to do, we must fight against the tendency to assume other leaders are not in need of positive feedback. The one on one sharing of the appreciation we have for other leaders in our lives is something they are more than deserving of, and it is a necessity in creating/maintaining a great culture and ever-lasting relationships.
For any MCCi folks reading the post and for those who have led me……… Thank you! Saying it here is not good enough; I know I can do a better job of putting this in practice and will be holding myself accountable to act.
Leadership is about getting your team “wanting to” rather than “having to”. The same goes for when and how we react to negative news, inquiries, and concerns that those on our team voice to us; the easy route is to be impulsive in our response, however the leadership route is rarely the easy one.
An impulsive reaction can result in:
- Failing to envision the situation from other vantage points
- Futile and unnecessary negative emotion being thread through our response
- Embarrassment for the other party if done in front of others
- The other party no longer seeing us as leaders/mentors
Impulsive reactions to negative situations will not leave others on the team “wanting to” rather than “having to”, and when people feel that they have to do something the full potential of that person, the organization, and the leader will never be met.
As a closing thought, here is the definition of Spew: To expel large quantities of (something) rapidly and forcibly.
- Make time to take care of ourselves and our families
- Prospect and look for new opportunities, even when business/life is good
- Make corrections (and be the one to point them out) rather than excuses
- Look for issues when none are apparent
- Do not allow 8-5 to be a factor in achieving our goals
- Celebrate and recognize the success of others
- Write down our goals and consistently inspect performance against them
- Stomp out complacency; we look for it throughout the organization, especially after big wins
- Understand and accept leadership risk (relying on others for success)
- Strive for those who lead us to not have to worry about anything under our control
Early this morning while exercising in a small hotel gym, I reflected on how fast things are moving in life. My kids are growing up too fast; I am getting older; MCCi is growing faster than ever and our team is phenomenal. I was reminded that balance, growth, and leadership are tough, and that a certain level of stress (each person has their own tolerance) will be present when we are trying to do it all perfectly; The reality is that perfection is impossible and that is the reason for reflection. Consistent adjustments are what is key.
This week I am in three different states and will be part of some very important meetings. We are prepared, and they will go as well as they can because our team is awesome. But what am I most excited about this week? The daddy daughter pool day with my 4 and 6 year old daughters on Saturday. Just as much preparation is going into that: Early morning grocery store run, hot dogs, popsicles, all-day pool day, bubbles, games, umbrellas……..
Avoidable signs of not listening:
- Hostile tone
- Passive aggressive questioning
- Response before thought / considering viewPoint of other party
- Lack of empathy / unwillingness to acknowledge concerns and opinions of others
- Negative body language
- Use of the wrong communication medium / inviting miss-understanding
When others make one or more of these mistakes, be a leader and do not oblige with the same approach/mistake. If you are their leader, do take the time to reflect on their approach and coach afterwards. If it is a peer, realize that taking the same approach in a response fuels divide; you can’t make someone else grow, but how you react will have an impact and influence regardless of the chain of command.
And when we are guilty of not listening we should have humility, correct it, and move forward together. Grow from it – it is what others expect and what will be respected.
Millennials ask WHY all the time don’t they?
I find value in the characteristic of being asked why. I also ask the question quite a bit myself and believe it is key in business. The only challenge is when the person asking does not understand/accept the answer, even when the answer is accurate and comes from years of experience. When this happens, I recommend putting that person in a situation where they can witness the why or even letting them them fail so that they can learn. If not, they may start building up these scenarios in their memory log and leave the organization because they feel like they were not listened to.
A couple of other thoughts:
- If the why question leads to an improvement to be made, we should always capitalize on those and recognize the person in a very positive way. This makes them feel like they have made an impact and that is what they are seeking.
- If how the person asks the why question is aggravating or too frequent, others will stop including them because they will see it as inefficient and non-productive to do so. If you have someone who acts in this way please SAVE THEM. They just need some major mentoring in regards to their style. They likely do not know they are coming across this way and you can make a big impact in their life by helping them correct it.
In our organization, more than 50% of our staff falls in this generation and I missed it by only 2 years. The percentage of millennials in organizations is increasing each year and that will continue given that the youngest of the millennials is now 22 years old and they are still entering the workforce. Given these statistics, organizations should like stop looking at the situation as “trying to understand millennials” and start thinking of it as “understanding themselves as an organization”
This is a great question for new and existing leaders – especially those that are in constantly changing environments.
At the most simple level, a leader’s purpose is to grow and build a team in order to leverage each team member’s strengths, which in turn magnifies the success of each person and of the whole. For net new leaders, if they fail to change and continue to be a lone soldier, who/what is being led? For those struggling with the question of how good they are performing as a leader, here are some questions for self-reflection:
- Do my team members feel supported?
- Do they feel I am helpful strategically and a key to their success?
- Do they believe I genuinely care about them?
If the answer to all is Yes – Right on!; If the answer to any one of these is No, it is time to change and give your team members what they need to ensure their success, your success, and the success of all other stakeholders (customers, other teams, etc.). After self-diagnosis, the next step is to ask other leaders their perception of how you are performing. One tactic to avoid as part of the discovery process is asking our team members what they need from us. Rarely will they tell you that you are failing, or that they need you to care about them more than you do yourself. The only time questioning them is appropriate is for certain tasks and/or specific help they need – it is not a question we ask in regards to how we should lead them. To care is to place our thought, energy, and priority on the other person(s), which is the only way they will feel it. We have to be thinking about what they need rather than solely depending on them to tell us.
Leadership is tough/more work and it can be a lonely place at times. However, we all have to remember why we signed up, which was to help others grow and because we understand the Go Giver (“The Go Giver” book is great!) mentality and are confident in the results it will net .