Lots gets said and written about leadership and strategy. Complex theories and models abound. Leaders (usually the ones with some sort of inferiority complex) use really big words and acronyms that only confuse things even more. No wonder most businesses today languish in a constant state of mediocrity.
I once worked with a PhD from one of the finest business schools in the world that would often say; “We’re not doing that. It’s too simple.” The results were a culture that was reduced to a toxic tar pit and a customer base that slipped 17% in one year – eroding $200MM in shareholder value.
Here’s the secret sauce (so to speak) though – be relevant. Be relevant to your people, partners and your customers. It is the competitive advantage that will set you apart from the crowd.
What does “being relevant” mean?
When business leaders get complicated with their models and convoluted mumbo jumbo, it always comes from what they teach in business schools and it is all left brain thinking.
People, on the other hand, make all their decisions from an emotionally based perception of their own reality, which is all right brain thinking. It is different for each individual – there is no one size fits all.
Case in point – my adult daughter recently moved out (finally). When the dust settled on her move (and my sore back recovered), I started thinking about the cool things we could do with her empty room. My visionary mind was spinning with ideas of a media or workout room or a place to write. My wife on the other hand was completely depressed (her baby was gone) and was talking about weekly visits where she could take our daughter food and other care packages. Same situation (daughter moving out), two completely different emotional paths of thinking for my wife and me.
Now apply this to strategy and leadership.
People on your team will follow you anywhere when they understand clearly what has to be done and MOST importantly, why it has to be done. When they understand why, they can make an emotional connection to how it impacts them personally. Once they have done that, they will move mountains to get it done. Others that cannot align with the direction and the ‘why’ will stand out as not being a fit.
The leader’s role is to make sure that strategy is kept super simple (I love Steve Jobs’ quote about simplicity being the ultimate in sophistication) and that he/she ensures the team gets the why. The ‘why’ needs to become the rallying cry!
Next, when it comes to customers, being relevant to their emotional needs is also simple. Understand your customer – quickly! Everyone says that but rarely do they do it! The world’s greatest organizations have an intense understanding of their customer. The Four Seasons Hotel chain keeps detailed data on their customer’s likes and dislikes so they can replicate the customer experience in any resort anywhere in the world. A Four Seasons employee has to go through 6 weeks of training before they start work. The training includes a 2-hour workshop on “How to close a door.” Really!
The point is that when you understand what challenges a customer has and how to emotionally connect with them, they will become passionate apostles for you and your business. There is no detail too small if that detail is relevant to your customer. Once you understand what is relevant to them, you can build your strategy and develop your organization around solving your customer’s problems. This will create right brain connections with your customers. And, equally important, help you identify the customers you want and the ones you don’t.
Do this and your competitive advantage over the left-brain majority will lead to better business results and more loyal customers and employees.
- Robert Murray is a keynote speaker and the author of the critically acclaimed book It’s Already Inside: Nurturing your innate leadership for business and life success.