On Self, The Customer & Leadership Blog, and Cultivating Loyalty With Employees, Partners, and Customers

Cancer, the impending arrival of death for my friend and later myself, concentrates one (at least me) on that which matters.  Today’s conversation is around that which has been unconcealed for me: about myself and the purpose/contribution of this blog.  So now is the time to leave if this is not the conversation for you.  I don’t even know, right now, how long this conversation is going to be.

Purpose of The Customer & Leadership Blog

Why did I create this blog back in 2010?  Was it to be recognised as a thought leader, a guru, in the Customer space?  Was it to get on the speaking circuit and make money? Maybe it was to sell my services e.g. paid for content and/or advertising as a result of having a thriving web presence?  Some folks think so. Enough people contact me to speak as a thought leader. More contact me about writing advertorials and passing them off as my conversations. Others contact me to search maximise this blog (as it is crap from a search perspective enough though it has great content – that is what I have been told). Then there are others that offer to write stuff, for free, that I can publish on this blog.

I decline all the content stuff. Occasionally, if the speaking stuff appeals to me I speak.  The rule is that I speak that which I speak – for that is the only way that the speaking shows up and expresses itself through me.  Once boundaries are putting up, the speaking dries up.  That is simply so and I work with that – life as it is and is not.

So what got me started?  Allow me to share the following quote:

“I had a vivid imagination. Not only could I put myself in the other person’s place, but I could not avoid doing so. My sympathies always went to the weak, the suffering, and the poor. Realising their sorrows I tried to relieve them in order that I myself might be relieved.” – Clarence Darrow

In short, I found myself identifying with particular folks in organisations: those with affinity for the customer, seeking to simplify/enrich the lives of their customers AND get a fair reward (money) for the difference they make in the lives of customers.  It occurred to me that these folks were being misled or duped by those with influence: academics, consultancies, thought leaders, and gurus.  I found most of their advice BS in the sense that Harry Frankfurt uses this term.

It occurred to me that these high priests (thought leaders, gurus, academics, consultancies) were sitting in the stands and at best sharing that which they saw from the stands. Few had/have substantive (many different trials over many years) experience in the arena. Yet, the game is played in the arena – always! The insight / truth that matters is the truth that arises from and makes a difference in the arena!  Not the commentary that comes from those sitting comfortably in the stands – spectators.

I have been in that arena playing many roles in many types of Customer games: salesforce automation, CRM, 1to1 marketing, CX, web design & commerce, digital strategy, marketing automation, sales & account management, customer service & contact-centres…

It occurred to me that I could/should make a contribution by sharing that which I had learned through many years in the arena; there is both success and failure in the arena, each provides learning opportunities, oftentimes the learning from failures is more powerful than the learning from successes.  This logically led me to this choice: the choice to share my perspective/learning/experience for those who find themselves in the arena or are about to enter the arena. Hence, the genesis of The Customer & Leadership Blog for the business domain.

The joy of self-expression and contribution through this blog, The Customer & Leadership Blog got me thinking. Why not make a similar contribution to folks on the personal (non business) side of human existence. This led to the birth of a second blog: Play BIG: Live A Life Worth Living.

Still why did I do this and why do I continue to do this. Is it to be a thought leader or to establish myself as a guru thus win lucrative speaking gigs?  Talk to my wife. Talk to my great friend  Lonnie Mayne: you might find that I prefer to be in the background as a catalyst: coaching, educating, enabling/facilitating, and provoking original thought &/or action.  I wish to conclude this portion of the conversation with this quote:

There is a basic difference between the leader and the organiser. The leader goes on to fulfill his desires, to hold and wield power for the purposes both social and personal. He wants power for himself. The organiser find his goal in creation of power for others to use. – Saul Alinsky

I leave you to decide whether I fit the description of the leader or the organiser.

What Has The Process That Keeps The Customer & Leadership Blog In Existence Unconcealed To Me About Myself?

Let me be clear, I started with what occurs to me as altruistic motive.  I continue with the same altruistic motive – declining opportunities to write paid for content and pass it off as my work, to accept advertising, refusing speaking opportunities which are paid for PR/marketing for some business or other.

Despite or because of my altruistic motive, I have gotten a HUGE amount out that has left me enriched:

First and foremost, The Customer & Leadership Blog saw me through some of the darkest times of my existence. Where the world that constituted my world slowly disappeared. I am talking about the world of sports/activity: Paragliding, trekking in the mountains, going backpacking in third world countries, cycling, tennis, badminton, even something as simple/joyful as table tennis.

Second, In the process that is the Customer & Leadership Blog my image of myself shifted.  I start out thinking that I was a pygmy in the land of giants – that I had nothing to say that was worth listening to. Further, I was convinced that I could not write. Today, without hesitation nor doubt I say that I show up for myself as a thinker-writer-speaker who is worth listening to by those who know who/what to listen to.  It doesn’t stop there, I learned much more about myself.

Only as a result of these two blogs did I realise that I am more than a thinker.  I realised, that I create (these original conversations) therefore I have the capacity to be creative. What joy this realisation / experience brings!  What is the experience that I am seeking to share with you?  Allow me to point you towards that direction by sharing this quote:

Curiosity, irreverence, imagination, sense of humour, a free and open mind, an acceptance of the relativity of values and of the uncertainty of life, all inevitably fuse into the kind of person whose greatest joy is creation. He conceives of creation as the very essence of the meaning of life. In his constant striving for the new, he finds that he cannot endure what is repetitive and unchanging. For him hell would be doing the same thing over and over again.  – Saul Alinsky

Yes, fundamentally I am curious, I have that free and open mind, and accept the relativity of values/positions/theories and the inherent uncertainties that come with finding oneself in living in a complex non-linear world where prediction/certainty is for those who are either naive or fools.  Which kind of explains how it is that I have deliberately sought to make friends with folks from different countries, different faiths, different ages. It also explains how it is that my interests/thinking spans science, philosophy (eastern, western), history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, ecology, systems thinking, chaos/complexity….

Is it possible that it is irreverence that lies at my core?  It hasn’t escaped my notice that the subtitle of this blog is: “provocative conversations: questioning conventional wisdom / stimulating original thinking.”

They say you remember the moments in your existence that really matter. I must have been between 8 and 10 years of age.  Unhappy. Perplexed. Desperate to figure this thing out. What thing? Why is it that the stuff the (white) folks teach me at school about good/bad, right/wrong differs from and contradicts that which my parents (and their relatives) insist is good/bad, right/wrong?  Then one day, one moment, outside walking, a thought/insight arises and hits me.  It does not leave me the same person – it changes me fundamentally and forever.  Which thought/insight? Here it is:

Its ALL made up!

Once I got that, I started pushing the boundaries – at school, at home. I became the person who questions that which is taken for granted.  The one that asks the difficult questions like “Why be a team player in a competitive individualistic culture and economic system? Do you think I am stupid? What is a team player – one who censors self to fit in with the powers that be – you?  Why should I be that kind of person?  Anyway, why should you get to define what constitutes team playing?” Or”What makes you certain that your religion is the only true religion, that your way of life is the right one?”

There is a Chinese saying which goes something like “Beware, every stick has two ends, when you pick up a stick you get both ends!” I can vouch for the truth of that.  Curiosity, open mindedness, acceptance of relativity of values/perspectives, and especially irreverence have brought me great learning, memorable experiences, and joy.  That is one end of the stick.  The other end is that almost always I find myself the Outsider. And folks do not like that which they hold dear questioned. They don’t even like the opinions/prejudices/’facts’ they picked up from their media to be subjected to Socratic questioning or my blistering critique.

My professional existence is been that of a traveller: travelling from one employer to another, moving from domain to another.  History suggests that I tend to last about two years in an organisation. At about that time I usually find myself bored – having learned that which there was to learn. And/ or I find myself facing a ‘superior’ who shows up for me as ignorant/stupid/arrogant or just a bully.

There’s an ancient story of The Oak and the Reed. According to this tale, the smart choice is to be the flexible/supple reed. I am the reed when it comes to means to accomplish ends. When it comes to values/ends and the way I have chosen to show up and travel in this existence I am the Oak. Why?  Because these matter – these are what I choose to orient/navigate my existence by.  How important are they to me?  This quote says it all:

“A man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” – Hemingway, The Old Man & The Sea

What Has This To Do With Customers and Leadership?

Good question.  Allow me to respond with a few questions of mine:

Do you identify with the customer (see the Clarence Darrow quote at the beginning of this conversation) and so are committed to simplifying/enriching the lives of your customers? Or are your in it purely for yourself – to make a name for yourselves, to get rich?

Are you playing the Customer game because it is THE game that you want to play because it is THE game that calls you – your deepest self?  Is playing this game the expression of your deepest self?

Do you have or are you cultivating the curiosity, the open mindedness, the awareness of the relativity of perspectives, and the inherent uncertainty of existence to get out of your existence (your default existence) and really enter into / live the lives of your customers? And thus to generate original insight, and cultivate empathy, for your customers?  How can you simplify/enrich their lives if you do not truly understand them – not as mere personas nor statistics – but as concrete human beings?

Do you get all that is – you, your organisation, the economic model, society as such – is all made up?  And are you up for unmaking that which is necessary to unmake to become a giant in the Customer arena – as seen through through customers’ eyes?  Is this a mission that appeals to you – calls forth intellectual interest and emotional passion? How do you know that passion is present?  Passion brings boundless energy and it does not get stopped by obstacles that appear on the path.

Are you willing to pay the price that comes with questioning the status quo and threatening the powerful who seek to lose by the changes you are proposing to make or making? Are you willing to be that Outsider?  Are you willing to accept Hemingway’s truth that a man is not made for defeat, that he can be destroyed but not defeated?

If you answer these questions honestly you may get why it is that few are successful in calling forth genuine loyalty between themselves and employees, between themselves and their value chain partners, between themselves and their customers, between themselves and the communities in which they operate.

Thank you for your listening, I wish you the very best, until the next time.

 

Leadership: What Does It Take To Generate Impressive Performance?

What Do You Make Of The Following?

Recently, Richard and I (along with another colleague) took part in a sales discovery workshop.  This is the feedback our colleague (the ‘sales guy’) got from the ‘client’:

Hi …….

Thank you for coming to …….. yesterday. I think we all agree that it was a very positive and useful workshop, which was run extremely well by Maz and Richard (Maz in particular is a very impressive facilitator – we could use him on other projects!)…….

What do you make of it?  Did you attribute the success of this workshop to Richard?  Did you attribute the success of this workshop to me – the “very impressive facilitator”?  Did you attribute success both to Richard and me, yet put me at the front of the stage and Richard more towards the back of the stage?  Allow me to share with you how almost all of us would interpret the situation:

Nice job all – particularly Maz Iqbal that is GREAT feedback!

Distinguishing Between A Statement-Description That Is Accurate And One Which Is True

Whilst the client’s statement is accurate it is not true.  Why?  Think of it this way, the client only got to see-experience the show.  The client did not get to see-experience all that occurred.  His position to some extent was that of a spectator in the stands watching the play occurring on the pitch.  And as such he is not in a position to know-experience the play occurring on the pitch and all that it takes to generate a high performance play.

Why am I pointing this out to you?  It occurs to me that there is a profound difference between observations and statements made by those in the stands (‘spectators’) and by those on the pitch (‘players’).  Given that almost all that you/i hear-read is spoken-written about is written by spectators. So whilst what they speak may be accurate it is never true.  Which means that almost all leadership-management-business advice that you/i are exposed to is misleading at best and damaging-destructive at worst. Why? It gives the illusion of answers whilst hiding that which is hidden in the background and which truly shapes that which occurs.

Who Creates-Shapes Performance?

Take a look at the following video:

I ask you, who-what created the context-space for the performance of the expert?  Was it the expert – as an individual?  Or was his performance shaped by the context-space created from him by the ‘sales guy’ and the project manager?

Now zoom out and look at the bigger picture: the bigger conversation that is occurring in the room and the performance of the whole group.  Didn’t the client also play a crucial role in generating the kind of performance that occurred in that meeting?

Let’s switch back to my very impressive performance as a facilitator. What was my response to this feedback:

@…. It occurs to me that I showed up as an impressive facilitator because the space for me to show up that way was created by @RichardHornby and @……. and the client. The folks from [the client] were great. We were able to co-create a great meeting as there were no egos in the room…..

Am I being modest?  No.  It occurs to me that I am simply stating what is so: the truth of high (impressive) performance.  The truth is this:

The ‘sales guy’ was big enough to let Richard and I shape-lead the workshop. At one point, I told the ‘sales guy’ that I was taking away his right to speak as his speaking, whilst necessary at some point, was inappropriate at that workshop given the challenge we were addressing and the time that we had. The ‘sales guy’ took it as it was meant and did what he was asked.

The ‘project manager’ Richard and I have shared history that goes back to the year 2000.  Richard listens to me as a skilled facilitator. In his listening it is simply not possible for me not to show up as a skilled facilitator.  He creates the context-space for me to show up that way AND his listening of me also ensures that it is simply not feasible for me to allow myself to let him down. Richard and I are friends! We designed the workshop together – collaboratively and iteratively.

By the time we got to the workshop Richard and I knew exactly who was doing what. And this is important: I got up to facilitate that workshop knowing in my very being that I was totally safe (Richard was holding the safety net) no matter what.  And in that space I was prepared to shine.

Ultimately I showed up as a “very impressive facilitator” because all members of the client team sitting around the team allowed me to show up that way. How did they do that? They left their egos outside of the room, the workshop. And as such there was all the space to work collaboratively on the challenge at hand.

The Challenge of Leadership: Creating The Context-Space For Impressive Performance To Show Up

I say that:

  • impressive performance shows up when you create the context-space for impressive performance AND only impressive performance to show up; and

  • leaders are those people who create the context-space for impressive performance and only impressive performance to show up at the individual and ‘team’ levels.

Shining Example Of A Servant Leader
Shining Example Of A Servant Leader

 

I dedicate this ‘conversation’ to my friend Richard Hornby.  Richard shows up for me as a shining example of a servant leader.  I owe him more than I can ever repay.  And I am clear that this world is a richer-better place for Richard being in it.

 

 

 

 

Transforming Service through the radical reconceptualisation of Service

We are trapped in out-of-date limiting unhelpful concepts

In my last post I asserted that dead concepts are limiting how customer service, customer experience, customer-centricity show up.  My point was that what we see, how we see it, what we focus on, what we do and the results that show up cannot be ‘greater than’ the concept we live/act from.  I say that service sucks because our concept of service sucks.  Put differently given the existing concept of service that holds us prisoner it is enviable that service sucks.

In this post I want to put forth into the world radically new conceptualisations of service.  My intention is that these reconceptualisations will jolt you out of being prisoner to the existing conceptualisation of service that his holding your prisoner – even if you do not know that you are being held prisoner.

My intention is not only to shock you, it is also to give you openings to transform your relationship to service and thus transform the way that you and your organisation think about and act when it comes to service.  If you do that then there will be a transformation in the way that your service shows up for your customers.  Are your ready for this jolt?

Radical reconceptualisation 1: Maz Iqbal on Service

Service is a gift that one human being bestows on a fellow human being.  The fundamental basis and the desired outcome of Service is human dignity itself: honouring our shared humanity – the best of our shared humanity as in when we move-touch-inspire and elevate one another. The kind of humanity that can move us to tears of joy.

Service requires the calling forth of my humanity and putting it into the world.  And as such Service is founded on vulnerability.  My vulnerability in the sense of putting myself at risk for the sake/benefit of my fellow human being – I may be ignored as if I am an object and not  human being, I may be misinterpreted, I may be criticised, I may be rejected…  And my recognition of the vulnerability of the person I am serving: he could be out of his depth, place his trust in me to do the right thing by him; he could be in a bind and expose his vulnerability by asking me to bend the rules, to make an exception; he could be in a bind that he needs the job done and I know he will pay any sum I demand; he could be and often is vulnerable in so many ways.

Service necessitates that I be totally present in the present and to the presence of the person I am serving.  Only when such presence is present is it possible for me to be responsive to the need of the person I am serving – modulating my being, my actions, my speaking and my listening such that I show up as ‘caring’ and ‘trustworthy’ in the world of the person I am serving.

Service comes forth most easily from those of us who get joy, fulfilment, satisfaction out of reaching out and touching the lives of our fellow human beings, for the better.

It is critical to get that Service is a mode of being in the world, a certain state of consciousness, it cannot be faked: if I am in this state of being then the majority of techniques and tricks that are usually imparted through training are unnecessary; if I am not in this state of being then all the techniques and tricks will not make enough of a difference for me to show up as being caring in the world of the person I am serving.”

Radical reconceptualisation 2: Werner Erhard on Service

“My notion about service is that service is actually that kind of relationship in which you have a commitment to the person. What I mean, in fact, is that for me what service is about is being committed to the other being. To who the other person is.

To the degree that you are, in fact, committed to the other person, you are only as valuable as you can deal with the other person’s stuff, their evidence, their manifestation, and that’s what’s service is about. Service is about knowing who the other person is and being able to tolerate giving space to their garbage. What most people do is is to give space to people’s quality and deal with their garbage. Actually, you should do it the other way around. Deal with who they are and give space to their garbage.

Keep interacting with them as if they were God. And every time you get garbage from them, give space to garbage and go back and interact with them as if they were God.”

My question of you

Are you up for transforming service?  Are you up for being a leader when in the area of service and through service generating the kind of loyalty you crave?  If you are then I have provided you with two openings.  I can hear you thinking that it is not easy, it is a BIG ask.  Yes it is.

Let me share a secret with you: one of the keys to Jobs success was the ‘reality distortion field’ – not being bound by people’s existing concepts of ‘reality’ and ‘what is possibility’.  Jobs was a master of inventing, projecting, living into and from the possibilities that he created in the face of no agreement from just about everyone around him.  Do you have that kind of passion, that kind of courage?  Leadership requires both the ability to invent radical-inspiring possibilities and the passion-courage to act, to make them real.