Nobody “unites” or “aligns” for the sake of it. We unite around a cause, around a challenge that we collectively want to achieve. Remember those teambuilding events whose results never translated back to the office? Here’s the thing, there’s no need to take everyone white-water rafting for a challenge you can bond over – in your business there are challenges all around you, and in the most successful organisations that I’ve seen, the challenge they choose to unite around, is how to provide outstanding service.
Here’s what a leader in one of them told me about what they learned:
“For the customer service team, whether in-store or on the phone, it means taking on the customer’s problem as if it were their own – standing in the customer’s shoes, and having the latitude, confidence and discretion to completely resolve it themselves.” Do you know if your people can do this? Forget mystery shopper – do you have mystery complainers?
“For the field-sales force, it means putting the needs of the potential customer before the needs of their sales manager, or the product teams. It means giving them the freedom to ask, to find the deeper need that the customer has, and to flex what they can offer as much as possible”. Do your salespeople frequently challenge your design team? Are they asking the organisation to do things other than drop price?
“For the support teams, it means treating front-line colleagues as their customers in exactly the same way. It means having the desire to take a store or sales manager’s problems and to personally own them right through to getting them resolved – whether that’s a leaky roof, a piece of kit that doesn’t work, a vacancy that needs filling or whatever”. Do your front-line teams always know the right person to call? Do they always feel there’s someone there who will own their problem, keep them informed and fight their corner until they get what they need?
And what does it mean for leadership? “It means a re-think. Re-defining your priorities and your relationships. It means a participative style where the focus is less on meeting the leader’s objectives, and more on meeting the needs of the team that work for them. The team’s job is to define the support and the resources they need to succeed, and the leader’s job is to put them in place.”
Bottom Line: If you could choose one strategic challenge around which you’d love your organisation to align, what would it be?