An Unpredictable Place To Learn Your Business

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?

Five Must-Do Strategies For Young Leaders

My leadership workshops are always filled with young leaders who may be new to an organization or new to an industry. They arrive excited to fill their leadership toolbox with skills or knowledge to help them grow in their careers and jobs. Being new to a career can be both filled with possibilities as well as fears of the unknown. Sometimes a young leader’s enthusiasm can be misinterpreted for a “need it now” attitude. But the truth is new leaders are eager to learn so they can make impactful contributions to their teams and companies.

So where is a young leader to begin? How can new leaders learn to be strong decision-makers and communicators

Five Practices To Strengthen Your Leadership Status

One thing I know for sure about leaders- if they believe they know everything about their field or career and there isn’t anything else that can help them grow, they are sunk. When leaders allow their experience and expertise to prevent them from learning new concepts or processes, they will begin a downward spiral in their organizations and careers.

[Tweet “Leaders are sunk if they aren’t willing to keep learning.”]

What I have also observed is that age and background has nothing to do with our desire to learn new skills or have new experiences. Some of the youngest leaders I work with are sometime more closed minded to new approaches than seasoned leaders… Continue reading | 4 Comments

How Long Should Leaders Stay With One Company?

Many things have changed in our work worlds and one of them is whether longevity at one particular organization is helpful in our careers. Does spending a large part of our careers at one place matter? Is it a positive or a negative for our career growth?

Should you stay or should you go?

In a leadership program this week, I worked with leaders who had spent the majority of their careers at one company. They were actually deciding on their next crossroad and I was helping them with strategies for their Second Acts. For each of them, Act 2 was going to look a little different and we worked hard and also… Continue reading | 3 Comments

Six Ways To Lead On A Multi-Generational Team

There is rarely a time that generational challenges don’t emerge in my leadership workshops or coaching sessions. The comments and concerns range from:

“Why can’t they have the same work ethic as we do?”

“Why are they so fixated on their phones and technology?”

“Why can’t they be more open to new ideas and different strategies?”

“Why can’t they see the value in a flexible workplace?”

“Why is work/life balance so scary to them?”

I am sure you have heard these same perspectives in your organization and may be wondering why we all can’t come together. Some even believe that if we just focus on the individuals that the generational… Continue reading | 6 Comments