A Customer Culture is Built on a Service Ethic
by Jim Clemmer
"Rank is an appointed position. Authority is an earned condition. Rank is decreed from above. Authority is conferred from below. Authority vanishes the moment those who bestow it stop believing, respecting, or trusting their appointed boss, though they may defer out of fear." -- Ted Levitt, Thinking About Management
There are many reasons that teams and organizations haven't developed a culture of intense focus on their customers and partners. Some are management issues -- they don't have the right tools and techniques or they haven't established disciplined listening and response systems and processes. In these cases, managers don't know how to become more customer and partner-focused. They don't have the way.
But the root cause of poor or just mediocre customer service goes deeper. It has to do with will. Most managers don't focus on their customers and internal/external partners because they're too busy managing. They've become Technomanagers focused first on technology and management systems.
Technomanagers don't want to serve, they want to control. They lord over and boss people. Technomanagers act as if (their words may say something very different) people (customers, partners, and everyone in their organization) serve their technology and management systems.
Psychologist and Forbes columnist, Srully Blotnick, spent twenty-seven years following the lives of 6,981 men. In his book, Ambitious Men: Their Drives, Dreams, and Delusions, he writes, "It's difficult to say to someone, 'I am your humble servant,' and in the next breath hit them with, 'but I am also your social superior'... 45 percent of all the ambitious and talented men we studied who failed did so because of difficulties directly connected with the simultaneous pursuit of these two goals."
Effective leaders know that without disciplined management systems and leading edge technologies, outstanding service is nothing but a dream. But they act on a belief system that management systems and technology exist to serve people. This is an extension of the effective leader's personal purpose built around the key service principle that success comes through serving others.
"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know; the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve." -- Albert Schweitzer
In 1977, retired AT&T Director of Management Research, Robert Greenleaf, published a philosophical leadership book that's enjoying a resurgence because the world-leading retailer Wal-Mart has used his concepts so effectively in building their service culture. His book is called Servant Leadership: A Journey Into Legitimate Power and Greatness. It's an inspiring and insightful book that points the way toward the involvement and empowerment movements we've seen in the last few years.
Greenleaf writes, "a new morale principle is emerging which holds that the only authority deserving one's allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the leader...the servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first (his emphasis). Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead."
It's another powerful paradox to be managed. On the one hand, leaders provide direction. They guide, influence, and persuade people on their team and throughout their organization. But once the cultural Context and Focus (vision, values, and mission) is clear, leaders continuously ask customers, external partners, and their internal partners how they can harness and improve the organization's core technologies, processes, and systems to meet everyone's needs. Then they put themselves in the management harness to establish goals and priorities along with the transformation and improvement plans that work to close the gaps between what is wanted and what is delivered.
Jim Clemmer is an internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, workshop/retreat leader, and management team developer on leadership, change, customer focus, culture, teams, and personal growth. His web site is http://www.clemmer.net/articles
Jim Clemmer may be contacted at http://www.clemmer.net/articles