As a leadership skills consultant I am often the one to be sharing a strategy or tip to help leaders grow. It makes sense that as the facilitator of a leadership workshop I roll out beneficial knowledge needed for leaders to advance in their careers. In turn, I attend conferences, take courses, read and talk to other leadership experts to educate myself on the latest trends and direction that leadership is moving. But I want to let you in on a secret about where I have learned the most about leadership: from my customers and clients. You read that right. My customers have taught me more about what leadership entails than any other source.
I actually learned about this strategy from my father, a consummate salesman. He sold his products with fervor and enthusiasm. He knew everything there was to know about windows, shades and rugs. Yet, he would tell me over and over again that he learned his business from his customers. How did he do this?
How can leaders learn their business from their customers?
SHIFT YOUR MINDSET FROM ME TO THEM
To learn about our businesses from our internal or external customers we first have to think differently. Before any workshop I commit to learning new or different perspectives from my participants. To remain open-minded we need to embrace the beliefs that:
- We don’t know everything about our industry or field
- Our customers live it so they possess strong skills and knowledge
- No formal learning can be a substitute for real life challenges and successes
- Our customers are wise, skilled and experienced
OBSERVE HOW THEY PERFORM AND BEHAVE
Using all our senses, we need to watch and listen to our customers’ words and actions. Carefully study how they use your products or services. Where are they performing well and where are they facing challenges? Sometimes we may think a customer is facing a dilemma but is actually feeling success with a particular product or concept. Rather than jumping to conclusions look and see what is their reality.
ASK CURIOUS QUESTIONS
To truly learn from our customers we often need to ask clarifying questions. Through the answers we can get a better understanding of what additional information we need to share or perhaps show them a better way to use a product. The better the question the more we learn and grow. Some curious questions could be:
- How would you adjust how the product or information is used?
- Why is this strategy so frustrating to you?
- Is there a way to make this technique more impactful?
- Can you explain your additions more clearly?
THANK THEM FOR SHOWING YOU THE WAY
Showing our customers that we appreciate their insights through our words or by recognizing them will go a far way in building a deeper relationship. When our customers feel valued they will continue to share their concerns as well as their positive feedback. All that information will help us learn a great deal about our products and services that will propel our growth and businesses too.
How have your customers taught you about your business?