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Does Leadership Effectiveness Start With Deep Listening?

Where the truth is self is not.

Where you are the other is not.

- Krishnamurti

Most of us are poor listeners, self included. And it occurs to me that the people who really excel at being poor listeners are those who hold positions of power in organisations.

How many decisions are made without the right people – those who have some kind of stake in the matter at hand – being in the room to discuss the matter? Even when the right people are present, I notice how quickly we dismiss the voices around the table that put forth a view of reality that differs from that of the powerful, or the dominant narrative.

I say that we should not stop at listening to the voice of the customer. I say we should listen also to the voice of the employees. I say that we should listen to the voice of the ‘whole system’ – all the stakeholders – when we explore matters, make decisions, and take action. Why?

What each of us believes to be true simply reflects our views about reality. When reality changes and when we ignore competing realities, if we dig in our heels regarding a familiar or favoured reality, we may fail. Perhaps what we thought was the truth is no longer the truth in today’s environment.

Multiple, competing realities existing simultaneously: This is true and this is true and this is true…… If we entertain multiple realities, we create possibilities that did not exist for us before. 

We are more likely to discover the truth we most need to understand today by demonstrating that everyone has a place at the corporate table. That all voices are welcome. That no matter what our area of expertise, each of us has insights and ideas about other aspects of the organisation..

…until the multiple – sometimes conflicting – realities of key individuals and constituents have been explored, implementing a plan can be decidedly tentative endeavour. To the degree that you resist or disallow the exploration of difficult realities in your workplace …., you will spend time, money, energy, and emotion cleaning up the aftermath of plans quietly but effectively torpedoed by individuals who resent the fact that their experience, opinions, and strongly held beliefs are apparently of little interest to the organisation.

- Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations

 

7 dimensions of the branded customer experience and other interesting insights from the latest research

According to the CIM: “Over the last fifteen years, the concept of branding has evolved from merely a design and communications-led ideal to one which runs far deeper into the DNA of an organisation. Today’s CMO has little choice but to acknowledge that whilst brands are built on promises, it’s the experience delivered that makes the difference between a myth and a reality.”  So how are marketers and the organisations they work for/within getting on in making this shift?

According to the research/report put out by CIM there are 7 key dimensions at the heart of the branded customer experience: strategic vision, leadership, customer-centricity, culture, operations, measurement and marketing clout.  Here’s what caught my attention under each of these dimensions:

Strategic Vision

The priority is making the short-term profits.  How have I come to this conclusion?  Only 20% of the respondents say that their organisation is willing to sacrifice short-term profits to adhere to the brand promise.  Which means that 4 out of 5 organisations are NOT willing to adhere to the promises they make to their customers if this means sacrificing short-term profits.

Which brand management tool is considered useful and yet the least used?  Employee brand behaviour guidelines.  How are employees going to live the brand if there are not clear brand behaviour guidelines?  And even that is not enough in itself, the brand guidelines have to be embodied/enacted.  What do the marketing folks excel at?  Issuing brand values and identity guidelines – strikes me that we are in the land of messaging/design/PR.

Leadership

I suppose the critical question here is whether the Tops (the leadership team) embody/live the brand through their decision making and their behaviour. Here’s what the research throws up:

  • 6 out of 10 leadership teams do NOT use the brand positioning/brand promise to guide their decision making;
  • 7 out of 10 leadership teams do NOT know what the brand means for their part of the organisation;
  • Only 1 out of 2 leadership teams embody/enact behaviours that are in line with the brand positioning/brand promise.

How does that show up for you? For me it speaks volumes as to how leadership teams see and relate to the brand.

Customer Centricity

Given all the talk about generating customer insight and acting rapidly/effectively on this insight to both improve the customer experience and to develop/introduce new products/services to address unmet customer needs I found it instructive to look at the reality as viewed/shared by the marketers.  According to the research the issue is not with the lack of insight nor the sharing of this insight within/across the organisation.  The issue is in the organisation’s failure to act on that insight:

  • For 9 out of 10 businesses customer insight and research are NOT the main drivers of decision making in the business.
  • At least 8 out of 10 businesses do NOT anticipate customer needs with new products and services; and
  • Only 4 out of 10 businesses understand and track customer preferences.

Culture

It is fashionable to say that ‘culture eats strategy for lunch’.  I’d like to modify it and say ‘culture eats brand for lunch’.  If I am correct then the fit between the culture and the brand promise/positioning really matters.  Here are the key point coming out of the research: “brand values are well represented during recruitment and on-boarding, but lacking translation to the customer experience.”  This suggests that there is no strong linkage between espoused values (the brand values, the brand promise, the brand positioning) and the behaviour of the people within the organisation.  Put differently it appears that brand values/brand promise is all talk in most organisation.  Here are a couple of stats:

  • Only 3 out of 10 organisations empower everyone regardless of department or level to build the brand and work to protect it;
  • In 8 out of 10 organisations employees do NOT understand their role in creating/delivering a branded customer experience.

Operations

A promise is a promise whether made by marketing or sales and this promise is made real by operations.  What does the research say on this?  It says “Operations and internal support services aren’t supporting the customer experience”  Here are some stats that go along with this conclusion:

  • Only 2 out of 10 organisations have put in place operations and internal support services that support the delivery of the branded customer experience;
  • Only 2 out of 10 organisations have employee policies and processes that are in line with the brand promise/positioning;
  • Only 2 out of 10 organisations insist that their suppliers and partners be compatible with the brand promise.

Measurement

The key highlights here are:

  • Only 3 out of 10 organisations consistently measure brand and customer related non-financial metrics;
  • Only 2 out of 10 organisation reward/value brand and customer related non-financial measured of success; and
  • Only 2 out of 10 organisations are able to link the quality of the branded customer experience to business value.

Marketing Clout

How powerful is the marketing function within the organisation?  Is this even a function that is listened to with respect?  It doesn’t seem so, the report says “respect and influence under pressure, but positive signs of input into cross business initiatives”.  This claim is supported by the following:

  • In 7 out of 10 organisations the brand/marketing function is NOT well respected throughout the organisation;
  • In 7 out of 10 organisations the marketing function does NOT have a strong influence on what other departments do; and
  • In only 3 out of 10 organisations do other business functions/teams freely invite the marketing folks to their project teams and workshops.

Want to get hold of a summary infographic? You can get hold of a pdf by clicking on the following:  Branded Customer Experience 2012 infographic

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