The experiences your customers have are directly related to the experiences your employees have. In the right environment, the right employees flourish when they have the opportunity to use their strengths and do what they do best to achieve an important objective. They flourish when they know their leader cares about their growth and well-being as much as the bottom line. They flourish when they are seen, known, and heard. They flourish when they are recognized and when they can feel your caring.
It’s no surprise to learn that studies have linked the experience an employee has at work with the experience a customer has with a company. The Service Profit Chain* tells us that there is a relationship between profitability and customer loyalty and employee satisfaction.
The people inside your organization form a chain of value that reaches out to the external customer. If you think about it, people working alongside you are a lot like your customers. If you want to keep your customers happy, test yourself by creating happiness in the workplace. If you want to increase the value you are putting into the marketplace you must first create more value in the workplace. That’s what this course is all about. If you are looking to create more positive customer experiences look first to your inner experience of work, and to the inner experiences of those who work with you. In this course you will explore the customer experience from the inside out, starting with your own experience.
As I was coming of age as a manager I discovered the work of Peter Drucker, one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. It was Drucker who taught me to embrace ambiguity and that the best way to predict the future was to create it.
Drucker taught that business should meet unmet needs. So I built a business around the concept that the, “Purpose of a company is to create a customer.” In his time, Drucker taught that to, “Satisfy the customer is the mission and purpose of every business.” I took it a bit further in order to update it for the 21st century. To create consistently positive experiences for the customer is the core of the mission and purpose of every organization. It’s the heartbeat that activates the mission and propels the purpose into the world – attracting customers, employees and investors.
Drucker’s common sense approach taught me to challenge all my assumptions. I discovered that every time your world changes, you have to rethink who you are, where you are going, what you will do and how you will do it.
That’s the purpose of this course, to help guide you as you redefine who you are and who and what you want to be.
Drucker believed that every company has its own view of where its business is and what its own beliefs are about how business operates.
Because assumptions – and beliefs – shape our behavior, dictate our decisions of what to do and not to do, and define our meaningful results, it’s critically important for a leader to become comfortable challenging assumptions and beliefs (theirs and others) and opening their minds to new possibilities.
We form our theory of business pretty early on and it resides, along with our values and beliefs, in the “invisible” part of the business, the culture. It isn’t until we begin to question our assumptions to see if they are still valid that we can see where we might need to change ourselves, our processes or our way of thinking.
Question your assumptions often. Be thorough and test them. When they no longer fit reality, change them.
Every culture has a ‘Spillover Effect’ as well as a ‘Crossover Effect’. You know them both well, even if you didn’t know how psychologists label them. When you come home from work in a negative or positive mood, it effects your relationships (Spillover). When you come home from work the mood you come home in can be contagious to other people in the house, causing them to pick up your mood (Crossover).
As researchers from Cornell have shared, “Positive spillover occurs when satisfaction and stimulation at work translate into high levels of energy and satisfaction at home. Negative spillover occurs when problems and conflicts at work drain and preoccupy individuals, negatively impacting their behavior and experiences with their families and partners, and deteriorating those relationships.”
The spillover effect can be positive or negative. Here’s the negative side: People who are dissatisfied and unhappy at work bring that mood home with them. They tend to have less happy and less healthy children who have behavioral problems at school. When people bring negative energy home and it crosses over to others, it creates unhappy home experiences. That person is also more likely to come back to work the next day in a bad mood.
Here’s the positive side: People who are happy at work also cause spillover and cross over, and even better, it turns out these positive emotions are MORE contagious when people are connected through a network.
According to a Washington Post article the positive crossover effect continues through three degrees of separation (or as I like to say, ‘connection’). If you bring a positive mood home, it puts your spouse into a positive mood who then talks to a friend who also catches the positivity. It’s an “upward spiral”, a term I personally love. The ripple keeps going after the third person and then progressively drops off before disappearing.
You don’t need research to understand this, just notice how things work for you and for your family and neighbors. Emotions are contagious – period. When you create an enriching and appreciating culture at work where people are able to feel proud and get recognized for their accomplishments they end the day with an “energy gain” and not an “energy drain.” Toxic cultures suck the life out of people, families and communities. Nourishing cultures create a positivity ripple effect that travels much farther than just three degrees of connection.
Customer Needs Exercise
*Customers have two sets of needs. One set of needs is what I call “business” needs – they are the practical reasons they continue to do business with you. This is “tangible” value. They need widgets, they need to buy those widgets within a ten-mile radius of home, or have them delivered to their door, they must be priced right and they must be available when needed. Given that is all in place, a customer might be “satisfied” when you deliver on the business parameters of their needs and desires.
Customers also have a set of “personal” needs as well – those needs are emotional, intangible, illogical, and sometimes even irrational.
For this exercise, I want you to list the things you deliver on the tangible, “business” side. Think about the specifics – how is your pricing, availability, your product or services unique feature, your delivery schedule, your location etc. List the tangible value you deliver to your customers.
Then, list the intangible and the emotional needs your customers have. A great way to discover those is to repeat the following sentence over and over and fill in the blanks. “My customer has a need to feel _______________.” They may need to feel special, important, etc. Think deeply and list at least 10 – 12 items on this list.
Now I want you to go back to the “business needs list” and delete all the items on that list that your competitors do equally as well as you. If you are like most of the people I’ve worked with, only one or two, or possibly three of the items on that list will remain since so many things have become “commoditized”. The remaining items on the list can help you determine your competitive advantage with your customers. It will help you uncover the emotional states a customer experiences as a result of their interaction with your company.
*Through this course you will see I use the word “customer” meaning the end user of your product or service. Please know that “customer” can also means patient, student, guest, fan, or client.
Now we are going to do that exercise again.
Now I want you to list the “business” needs of another group of customers – your internal customers – the people who work with you, and your employees. List the real practical reasons they come to work with your company. Certainly on that list will be location, rate of pay, hours, etc.
Now look at the “personal” or emotional needs. “My internal customers (employees) need to feel______.” Make a good long list there too.
So how did you do on that exercise? Are you beginning to see why you are going to take such a deep look inside? A positive leader is emotionally intelligent.
Expanding your own capacity for creating and experiencing positive emotion creates the kind of environment that keeps employees happy to come to work in the morning and customers coming back.
In order to do that, you’ll find a series of “Positivity Practices” throughout this program. These practices will build your happiness and positivity “muscles”.
The first one I call, “Set Yourself Up For Success”. It’s all about setting positive intentions. Intentionality is important to the kind of success we’re talking about here. Positive leadership – becoming a Positive Energizer – is intentional. Living intentionally is the key to making all this work.
I’m not talking about those things that become “good intentions” like, “I meant to send the birthday card. I had good intentions.” I am talking about using INTENTION which is a force of nature when you know how to use it well.
Intentional living puts things into action. It moves us toward our purpose, delivers results, creates new habits, and helps us live a life of meaning. Everything in this course is intentional, and so at the end of every unit you will be asked what your intention is, based on what you learned in that unit. You can have more than one intention.
It’s my expectation that you will work with your intentions very seriously. There are lots of places in your “Leadership Journal” to capture your thoughts, your ideas and your dreams as well as your intentions. Make that a habit every week before moving on to the next unit.
For instance, one positive intention that will help you train your attention to see things more affirmatively is, “Today I intend to look for and see more things to appreciate in my life.”
It’s a personal favorite. When I use it frequently and combine my intention with my attention, it’s a powerful combo.
Positivity Practice #1: Set yourself up for Success
Use the power of Intention to state what you choose. Write it down/ say it out loud. Focus on intention through the day. Use “How?” and “What?” questions.
You might say something like, “Today I intend to radiate positivity.” Or, “Today I intend to slow down and make eye contact with everyone I meet.” Or, “Today I intend to tell every employee how much I appreciate them.”
Get my drift? You set the tone. If you find yourself during the day NOT aligning with that intention then ask yourself questions like, “How might I find more ways to feel and radiate positivity?” or, “What do I need to do next to appreciate more?” Call yourself to task on your intentions.
Writing by hand rather than typing into the computer does seem to have different effects on the brain. You might want to try it both ways and see for yourself what is most impactful. I recommend keeping your notes in a bound journal – your Positive Leadership journal – and writing your intentions and your reflections with a pen, pencil or crayon of your choice. If you feel so inclined to doodle or draw – please do!
I will ask you to hold yourself accountable, write down and read your intentions every morning, with heart!
Before we move on, I want to have a brief conversation with you about willpower and rest. As I began to study the world’s experts on willpower I had a real “aha” moment. We only have a finite amount of willpower. It’s like a muscle and when we use it, we tire it. When we don’t rest a muscle it gets exhausted and then doesn’t want to work. It’s much the same with willpower.
Research shows that we are beginning to understand why trying to exercise or lose that last 10 pounds is so darn hard. Many things you don’t think of as depleting your willpower reserves – like choosing what to do with each one of the 200 emails in your inbox or sitting through another boring meeting – actually depletes your reserve of willpower leaving you helpless to resist the box of donuts someone brings in after lunch.
There are two important things I want you to remember while taking this course. The first is that you are not “at fault” if it takes a while to habituate some of the practices I recommend.
The second is that when I recommend that you “pause”, “reflect”, and take a “Time In”. I’m asking you to do that because I understand that sometimes when you have exhausted your willpower it’s time to take a rest.
Willpower has been called the, “Queen of all Virtues.” It’s a better predictor of academic and business success (as well as marital bliss) than any other single factor. You need willpower on your side and that may mean paying attention to what depletes it and what repairs it. Many of the practices you’ll do throughout this course will help strengthen your self control and willpower.
Click the buttons below to learn more about willpower.
As you journey on with me you may want to start slow and schedule your “coaching time” at the same time each week. If you can do your learning earlier in the day, you’ll have more self control and willpower. After you finish each unit, I recommend that you give yourself a week to absorb, practice, and reflect on what you’ve learned before moving on.