On Tops And Their Struggle With Customer Experience and Employee Engagement
Have you noticed that the folks who occupy the seats of power (‘Tops’) in organisational life struggle with ‘Customer Experience’ and ‘Employee Engagement’? By that I am not pointing at the talk. Nor am I pointing at conceptual-intellectual understanding. I am pointing at walking the path: ‘showing up and travelling in the world’ in a way that creates a context which calls forth the actions that cultivate meaningful relationships with customers and employees.
Why do Tops, in particular, struggle to embrace-embody that which it takes for an organisation to create-design-deliver the kind of experiences that call forth meaningful relationships with their customers, and their employees? In asking this question I wish to rule out the domains of psychology or morality. What interests me is structural factors: the underlying ‘structures’ that shape human behaviour pretty much irrespective of morality and personality.
What is your answer? Hold that answer. Let’s first turn our attention to considerateness – the quality/state of being considerate.
What Is It To Be Considerate?
Language always leaves clues. So what does the English language suggest? Let’s take a look at the definition:
careful not to inconvenience or harm others.
“she was unfailingly kind and considerate”
If you haven’t done so then I urge to look up each of the synonyms to get a rounded feel for the phenomena under discussion. Notice, what we are talking about here is a genuine concern for the wellbeing of others – our fellow human beings. A working alongside-with others as opposed to over-against others. Cooperation and accommodation and not domination or indifference. What is the basis of considerateness? Is it not fellow-feeling? That you are human just like me and are worth of the same kind of consideration that I ask for, demand, for myself?
Considerateness: The Glue Of Long Term Relationships?
It occurs to me that the way of showing up and travelling in the world that we have named considerate is the access to cultivating relationships. And, importantly, keeping these relationships in existence over the long-term. It also occurs to me that this way of being-in-the-world is central to human centred design. And that includes experience design: Customer Experience, and Employee Experience.
Now back to the Tops. If you are a Top then what kind of situation do you automatically find yourself in? Let’s ask this question differently: What is the privilege that goes with being at the top, a Top? Is it not that as a Top you fully expect others to be considerate to you and your needs? Others that surround you and serve you show up and travel in a manner that is considerate of your status-needs-wishes-preferences. Is it not true that you are accustomed to be treated with considerateness by just about everybody that you encounter?
As a Top how do you treat others? Is it not that the default way of showing up and travelling in the world, as a Top, is that of inconsiderateness towards others:
thoughtlessly causing hurt or inconvenience to others.
“it’s inconsiderate of her to go away without telling us”“it’s inconsiderate of her to go away without telling us”Synonyms: thoughtless, unthinking, insensitive, selfish, self-centred, self-seeking, unsympathetic, uncaring, unthoughtful, unconcerned, heedless, unmindful,
What I’m pointing out here is structural-situational factor. One that calls forth a certain mode of being in the world. In no way am I making a moral-value judgement. Nor am I making reference to psychology or personality types. What happens when you are a Top for long enough? You lose touch with the anyone, the everyman. So your ability to listen to and respond with considerateness to the needs of others withers – even if it was there to start with. Yet this very considerateness is essential to being attuned to the needs-wishes-preferences of customers and employees. And responded sensitively and on a timely basis so as to generate gratitude, engagement, and loyalty.
Special Treatment: Words Of Wisdom From James A. Autry:
I wish to end this conversation by sharing words of wisdom with you
I think I started maturing as a manager when I discovered that one of the oldest principles of organisational management was hogwash. That principle is stated in many ways, but the military guys used to put it best: “Nobody gets special treatment around here.” …. In the military, they might also say, “If we do this for you, Lieutenant Autry, we’ll have to do it for everyone.” I used to want to say, “No, sir, you could do it just for me.”
What I realise now is that the professed aversion to special treatment was all delusion anyway; people in every organisation ….. get special treatment all the time…… much of it has tilted towards “in” groups…. that kind of “special treatment” is favouritism and discrimination.
But there’s another kind of special treatment …… a manager’s willingness to bend the rules to accommodate every person’s specialness…. Some people do good work but are slow; some do fast work but are sloppy. Some are morning people; some do better in the afternoon. Some have children that cause schedule problems; some have elderly parents. Some need a lot of attention and affirmation; some want to be left alone to do their work. Some respond more to money, less to praise; some thrive on praise…… some are very bright; some are slow….. Some are men; some are women.
Who in the world could believe that all those special needs could be accommodated without special treatment? But it takes a lot of management courage to provide that special treatment…..
I’ve made exceptions to corporate rules to help get an employee’s family through the nightmare of overwhelming financial and emotional distress. I’ve made similar exceptions for employees needing assistance to recover from substance abuse…..
The road of special treatment is not without peril, and it makes day-to-day management much trickier and more time consuming. You must consider the impact on the group, the legal risks, and the questions of equity and justice, in addition to the record and commitment of the person involved. Then if at all possible, decide in favour of special treatment…….
When someone complains, just say, “Everyone gets special treatment around here.”
– James Autry, Love and Profit, The Art of Caring Leadership
I leave you to ponder considerateness and special treatment. It occurs to me that they are intertwined: being considerate involves providing special treatment when special treatment is called for – by the customer, by the employee. What gets in the way of being considerate and providing special treatment? It makes the life of those in management harder. And ultimately, once you get beyond the rhetoric, the organisation is designed so as to be considerate to the needs of the Tops – not customers, not employees.