While we want our people to take a holistic view, most people in organisations are not treated as ‘whole’. The very construct of the organisation is designed to strip them down to a narrow view, then we want them to be holistic in their day to day interactions. It’s not unique to our adult experience, it starts when we are young. We teach our kids to fit in, follow the rules, yet want them to think for themselves.
What utopia looks like is an organisation where those interacting with customers, or designing interactions, feel that they own a win-win outcome in that interaction and that they have enough skill and acumen to achieve it. That means that they understand the big picture, are privy to the information they need and empowered to achieve the outcome. Sure, there are skills involved in that, but it all hinges on trust.
Talking to a tenured executive this week about the problems his organisation faces in delivering a great customer experience, he cites the common scenario of major stakeholders getting complaints from customers about the lack of help they’ve had from the organisation.
He finds himself bringing together different people, who have looked at things from their constricted viewpoint, their limited span of control, and having to mediate a solution from a more holistic perspective. One that serves the customer and the organisation. Sound familiar?
While ‘the customer experience’ has become a rather trite phrase, it is the thing that makes or breaks perceptions of an organisation when people have to interact with it. It’s the proof point of any brand you want to create and a vital barometer of your leadership. Whether an organisation exists primarily to make money, or is not-for-profit, whether it lives and dies by serving the needs and desires of individuals or is custodian or gatekeeper of a greater good, is irrelevant. All organisations benefit from a good reputation.
Standing in the way will be the basic construct of your organisation, even ‘flat’ structures tend to have hierarchies with the power at the top. The power isn’t just about the level of financial authority and decision making, it’s about the level of input and access to information – important context that can make all the difference for the person dealing with a change that is intended to directly or indirectly help the customer, or simply in the day to day conversing with the customer and ‘doing their job’.
The discussion in my recent article on how Profit, Purpose and Personal Fulfillment Can Thrive Together, focused on a new approach to organizational constructs. While this can only be driven by CEO’s and those they answer to, there is room in any construct for leaders to take an approach that allows their people to operate in a more holistic way, one that better serves them and the organisation.
The issue of trust is a starting point. To trust your people to deliver win-win outcomes, aside of the skills they will need to be equipped with, you have to trust them with information, you have to listen to their input, and they have to trust you.
When people trust you, they are willing to ask for help, willing to own mistakes. To gain that trust you have to firstly be willing to be vulnerable yourself, not infallible. Sure, you want to work with people who know what they’re doing, but to never make mistakes or to know everything?
For most of us showing any sign of weakness is out of our comfort zone. Our survival instinct, the part of our brain that switches to flight or fight when we are in mortal danger, has become the modus operandi for the way we live. Although most of us tend not to live in mortal danger for most of our lives, we are constantly using our minds in a way that mimics that instinct.
Notice as you talk to people that you are generally not listening to what they are saying. Yes you may be hearing the words that come out of their mouth, but you’re usually leveraging that to think about what to say next, rather than really understanding what is being said.
Here’s the reason, while you came into the world with an innate sense of what is right and wrong for you, from the minute you are born on this earth others think they know better. Slowly but surely you start to become less of who you were born to be and more of who others think you should be. This thing called ‘ego’ forms, your mind’s perception of you are. Almost immediately we start to fight or defend in some way, outwardly or silently.
Being vulnerable with the people you want to have trust in you is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Leadership teams that can be vulnerable with each other can start to truly operate as a team and will be a lot more focused and successful as a result. But it is like wearing a very uncomfortable pair of shoes at first. As you get to know and accept your own fallibilities, so you will be able to listen to others and help them with theirs, freeing them to achieve the very things you want them to.
Trusting your people to do their job in a holistic way means treating them as whole people. Any step towards trust in your organisation, even one small step, will be one giant leap towards a better customer experience and better business outcomes.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/122099374@N07/16969244789">Dave Lewis</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
By signing up you will only receive emails from shonakeachie.com and you can unsubscribe at any time. This is a two-step process, you will have to verify your subscription by clicking the link in the email you should receive after clicking this 'Subscribe' button. If you do not receive the email please check your Junk mail, thank you.
Please note if you are using the Google Chrome browser and want to subscribe to the RSS Feed you will first need to get an RSS plugin from the Chrome Store.