The Service Difference:
True leadership must be for
the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders.
--Robert Townsend, Up the
has been around since time began. It has taken many shapes and forms and gone through
many changes over the centuries. In the 1980's, Wess Roberts wrote a book entitled
Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. Although it did make some points of the do's and don'ts
of leadership, what it failed to point out was that Attila the
Hun was a ruthless human being with a take-no-prisoners
philosophy. Certainly not a leadership philosophy that is healthy
or one that encourages staff development. According to Larry
Wilson in Stop Selling, Start Partnering, "Leaders are focused
on vision, mission, and, most important, people. Contrary to popular belief, they are not autocrats;
they are not in the position to be served, they are there to
serve." This is certainly a reversal from the days of Attila the Hun
or Ebenezer Scrooge when workers were expected to shut-up,
put-up and perform or they were fired. There was a time when most organizational leaders were
at the top of the hierarchy. They were autocratic, and focused on the powers they
had as a leader, not the individual employees. Leaders of the past were strong believers in the chain
of command and were very bureaucratic.
In order to survive in the new century, leaders
know instinctively, that it is no longer "management as usual."
Leadership is a key element to make an organization effective,
especially in the customer care realm. Leaders within organizations are responsible for seeing
what needs to be done in the future and then getting out of the
way of staff so they may implement the changes in order to serve
the customer at an optimum level. Strong and capable leaders
formulate an organizations vision, stabilizes and/or creates a
solid organizational foundation and structure and then create an
environment where individuals truly want to do their best work
for their clients, teammates and the business.
Let's examine the qualities a leader in the 21st
Century will need to lead their staff, provide optimum customer
care and succeed in our rapidly and ever changing business
world. As a 21st
Century leader, you will need to:
Have visionary ability to see the big picture.
True leaders see possibilities. They are able to motivate staff and key players toward
the future. Employees need a clear idea of where the organization is going
and why it is important for them to help implement the vision.
Simply stating this is the organizational vision is not
enough. It must be
repeated regularly, visualized, conceptualized and embraced by
staff so they understand why it is important for them, the
customer and the organization and how ultimately they will
personally benefit from the creation of the vision.
Surround yourself with people who complement your
weaknesses. Secure leaders
are not afraid to acknowledge their weaknesses and
surround themselves with individuals who have strong skills in
their weak areas. When an organization has a solid foundation, it is able to
satisfy all client needs. That means regardless of the challenge, there is someone
within the organization able to work effectively with each
customer and their individual challenge.
Take risks. To move forward, you
must be willing to risk. It does not mean making decisions based on minimal information
or that defy logic. It does mean, however, that you are willing to support the
recommendations of your staff and are able to let them move
forward on a project using their expertise, not yours.
Walk your talk.
According to John Huey, "Ninety-five percent of
American managers today say the right thing. Five percent do it."
If you don't walk your talk, you are not believable. Every fiber of your being as a leader is on the line
everyday if you do not practice what you encourage staff to do.
Be not afraid to say, "I goofed".
Your willingness to admit to others your mistakes is a
direct indication to staff that you are humble and vulnerable.
Additionally, when you are willing to admit mistakes,
their trust in you soars. Staff will also take calculated risks that are vital for
growth within an organization. Knowing they will not be punished or condemned for
mistakes they may make along the way is important.
Know the strengths and weaknesses of your people.
In order to grow your team and the individual members,
you must know the abilities of your staff. That means a clear understanding of their knowledge, ability
and skills. Structure your leadership style and individualized training and
development programs for each team member. The better you know your staff and their abilities, the
more you will be able to help them.
Empower your staff.
Nordstrom's has one organizational rule: "Use your good
judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules."
Nordstrom's trains their staff to provide optimum
satisfaction for each and every customer. Once the employee is trained, management steps back and
lets the individual do their job without interference or
constant meddling. When staff is empowered to do their job, their self-esteem
soars, clients are happier since their needs are fulfill
immediately and organizations grow.
Grow your staff. Most employees
want to succeed. A strong leader helps others grow by providing
support, training, resources and guidance to help the employees.
Granted you may
ultimately lose the individual to another organization, but in
the meantime, your business is directly benefiting from their
increased skill level.
Strong leaders are not afraid to delegate. Individuals develop when they are given new and
additional tasks to perform. Additionally, an organization that is managed by a leader who is
unwilling to give up control will never increase in size, nor
will the clientele be satisfied since decisions cannot be made
without the boss’s approval.
Communications is a never-ending process. Most managers spend at least 60% of any given day
communicating with others. Eighty percent of that time is spent
listening to others. Successful leaders are able to constantly communicate the
organization's vision at all levels. Additionally they are able to understand the
information being presented to them from a variety of sources
and then present it in a manner that everyone understands.
Be available and visible.
One of the most stirring moments in the movie
Gettysburg was when General Robert E. Lee got on his horse and
went to be with his troops. He knew his appearance would motivate them and provide emotional
support for the long battle that lay ahead. Employees of today are no different.
They want to see their leaders. They want to know the leader cares about them as
individuals and that they understand the challenges they are
encountering on a daily basis. This can only be accomplished if the
leader is available to the staff and has first hand
knowledge of the tasks and duties the employees is performing.
Lead with integrity.
People only trust leaders who are honest and fair. Employees need to know and believe they will be treated
equitably. A successful leader is willing to be vulnerable in
order to win the trust of their staff. Additionally, honesty creates trust within the organization,
employees, clients, suppliers and the industry.
It has long been my contention that how leaders
within an organization treat their employees is how the staff
will respond to the internal and external customer. If an
organization wants employees who are not afraid to risk, are
willing to go the extra mile for the customer and want to be
part of the business' success, then they must provide leaders
who are willing to walk their talk, can communicate a vision and
are willing grow and embrace the abilities of everyone.
©2000 Eileen O. Brownell, Chico, CA. All Rights Reserved.
Eileen O. Brownell is President of Training Solutions, a Chico,
CA based firm. For
over 25 years, Eileen continues to be noted as the ‘high-energy’
speaker and trainer who captivates her audiences and makes
learning a lasting experience. Her expertise is in the areas of
customer service, conflict resolution, communication, and team
development. Eileen specializes in working with
organizations that want repeat and referral business, and with
people who want to exceed customer’s expectations. She is the
author of The 12 Secrets of Unforgettable Customer Care.
Call Eileen at 888-324-6100 (e-mail
Trainstars@aol.com) for more information on her
speaking/training services and learning tools (www.eileenbrownell.com).