Great Leadership & The Customer Experience

leadership and the customer experience

Great Leadership & The Customer Experience

We debated including a list of leadership traits in Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience because so many ineffective managers are looking for shortcuts. There are no shortcuts to becoming a great leader. By listing the traits of great leaders, we run the risk of those who need these lessons most just posting these somewhere in the workplace or on social media, while never working toward changing their own behavior, style, or approach.

Posting these gives ineffective managers a feeling of accomplishment. Moreover, they believe by regurgitating this list they’re proving to the world these traits describe them. This isn’t a checklist; these aren’t hollow sayings on posters you hang in the breakroom; these are traits that you internalize and live every day if you want to set a customer-first tone in your business.

There are twelve traits we’ve identified in managers, owners, and executives who run customer-first operations. You’ll likely notice these twelve traits mention very little about serving the customer, and there’s a reason for that. Leaders at customer-first companies (like Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher) know that how they treat (lead) their teams is how their teams will treat their customers.

The Twelve Traits of Great Leaders

They’re Authentic. Great leaders are honest and authentic. They show their true self – warts and all – to their teams. Their teams appreciate this and, as a result, are more likely to trust these leaders at every turn.

They’re Optimistic. Simply put, optimists see challenges as opportunities; pessimists see them as overwhelming obstacles. Optimistic managers know their work toward creating great customer experiences will pay off; pessimistic ones think “Why even try?”

They’re Fair. Because they’re fair, their teams are willing to do more and try more. Unfair managers instill fear in their teams – even in their top performers – because no one knows the consequences of any good or bad actions. When you’re seen as fair, your team trusts you, and when employees trust their boss, they’re less likely to leave, take sick days, or shirk important responsibilities.

They’re Learners. Great leaders know they don’t have all the answers, so they’re always open to new ideas from everyone and from everywhere. Moreover, they know that their frontline teams – those closest to the customer – have all the answers (management just needs to be open to learning from them).

They’re Curious. Being open to new ideas is important, but great leaders are also curious. This means they’re actively seeking new ideas to improve the company’s results.

They’re Decisive. Great leaders know that making no decision is worse than making a bad decision. So, while they’d prefer to always make good decisions, they’re willing to risk a bad decision made for good reasons. Indecision can quickly destroy an otherwise productive team; and great employees don’t want to work for those suffering from analysis paralysis.

They’re Focused. Because they know each day can be different, great leaders never allow today’s distractions to remove their focus on those activities that can drive the greatest results in both the short and long term.

They’re Dissatisfied. You may not always see it, but great leaders believe in the power of continuous process improvement. This means that even after a record month or a flow of positive online reviews, they’re quick to look for better, more efficient and more effective methods to drive even stronger results next time.

They’re Fearless. Being fearless allows great leaders to be open to new ideas, try new methods, take risks, and heap the praise for their success on others.

They’re Thinkers. They know every action has consequences, so they’re thoughtful in how and when they make changes or how they introduce anything new to their teams. This doesn’t mean they’re afraid to share with their teams or that they would lie to keep their teams motivated. To the contrary, they just know nothing happens in a vacuum, so they consider the outcomes of their actions before acting.

They’re Principled. Driven to always do what’s right, great leaders are guided by their unwavering principles. This sometimes brings them the respect of their peers, and more importantly, always earns them the respect of their team. (“Even when it costs me money, we always keep our word.”)

They’re Servants. Above all else, great leaders work for their teams, not the other way around. You’ll often find great leaders more committed to an employee’s individual success than the employee is themself.

The Show Me Leader

Managers who like being snowed about how their customers are being treated ask single, closed-ended questions like, “Did your team institute the customer service policy we discussed?” or “Did you satisfactorily solve that customer issue that arose last week?”

The answers to questions like these always match what the leader wants to hear; “Yep.”

Conversely, Show Me Leaders not only uncover truthful answers, but their deep-dive style ensures their teams proactively do whatever is expected – without having to be told. Show Me Leaders ask open-ended questions like, “How has your team been instituting the customer service policy we discussed?” or “How did you satisfactorily solve that customer issue that arose last week?”

They immediately follow their team’s responses with, “Great, show me;” and then silently stare at their subordinate as he or she squirms to prove the answer they just provided was truthful. This is how leaders get to the honest answers beyond the filtering.

Want to make this work for you? Great, let’s start today. Just walk directly to a frontline employee or manager and ask, “How are we serving our customers today?” Expect to get a vague, but affirmative answer like, “Oh, boy, we’re doing this and this and this, and the customers just love it.”

Then reply, “Great, show me;” followed by silence.

Outstanding. You’ve just become a Show Me Leader.

Oh, just one more thing. Great leaders use fewer words and hold fewer meetings than their less successful peers. Successfully leading a team is not about telling, it’s about doing. Doing all the things you’re learning in this series. Instead of rambling speeches, rants, and long meetings, successful leaders lead by example and use real-time coaching to create an environment that fosters great customer experiences.

This post is part of a series of excerpts from Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience, a book written for everyone in any organization that has customers. That is, it was written for those in both the public and private sector; and for everyone in these organizations. From the frontline, customer-facing employees to the CEO and board of directors.

Each chapter in Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience concludes with Key Learnings and Chapter Exercises to make certain you and your team take the efficient path to becoming Customer-First. As you’ll learn in this ridiculously short book, building and maintaining a CX juggernaut isn’t hard… in fact, it’s ridiculously simple. Buy it now on Amazon!