Ask Me Anything

I often get great questions from people via email, social media, at conferences and in client meetings.

Recently, I received a question from Chris D. who asked about ways to manage two groups of people who need to work together—those who are young, eager and willing to work within a new organization and culture and those who are older, have been with the company a long time and seem reluctant to change.

“The new ones want to adapt to our culture. The older ones resist,” Chris told me.

Some might answer Chris with a nod to generational differences. Of course, there are differences among age groups and we need to appreciate that fact. But long before the generational differences discussion surfaced, companies like Chris’ wrestled with the same issue.

I believe Chris’ challenge is more about focus than age.

Organizations that are led from the inside out have a tendency to lay their internal differences at the customer’s doorstep. They treat customers the way they would want to be treated. Although that may sound like a version of the Golden Rule, it’s the wrong approach.

Outside-in led organizations put the customer requirements first. They truly listen to the customer, then saturate every corner of their business with the voice of the customer and blow up barriers to customer-winning performance. That formula creates superior customer experiences that keeps them running back for more. Customers benefit. The customer-focused company and its employees benefit. Everybody wins.

My recommendation is that Chris begin by focusing every one of his employees on customers and their requirements. Then provide the resources that he and his team need to continuously improve the customer experience every day.

He needs to start communicating a strategic story in multiple ways throughout his organization. The strategic story should:

  • Provide context and meaning to the company’s vision and business strategy;
  • Connect each of Chris’ team mates and the work they do to its effect on the customer;
  • Involve his team in continuously improving the customers’ experience;
  • Make sure his team has the resources and information they need to improve the customer experience; and
  • Explain how the team and its members will benefit when they’re successful.

The strategic story should be a filter for everything Chris and his organization says and does.

  • Every item on the agenda of every meeting should help tell the strategic story.
  • Chris and his leaders should begin meetings by telling a part of the strategic story.
  • In the hallways, ask questions that communicate the strategic story.
  • Make a big deal out of recognizing people for doing something related to the strategic story.
  • Goals, measurement and rewards should help tell the strategic story.
  • Policies, procedures, resource allocation decisions and bureaucracy-busting activities should help tell the strategic story.
  • The environment (scoreboards, signage, walls, floors, work areas, cafeteria, break rooms) should communicate the strategic story.

And just when he thinks he’s told his story enough times that everyone gets it—or perhaps is even sick of hearing it–he should tell it again.

That will put Chris up there with the best of the best leaders with whom I’ve worked and known.

When it comes to questions about managing change, culture, leadership, people performance, consulting or communication, ask me anything!  I’ll try my best to answer it here.

Key Takeaway: Building a corporate culture based on a customer-focused, strategic story is a formula for creating superior customer experiences that keep those same folks running back for more. Employees win. Customers win. Profits soar.

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