build leadership!

Businesses are re-discovering the customer! After years of inward focussed, efficiency-driven business doing, where the bottom line is a result of a business’ savviness, rather than of customers’ engagement, the focus now is shifting. With companies like Apple and Nike thriving on the dedication of their devoted and happy-spending customers, others want to follow suit. The question remains how to grow a customer base as loyal and motivated as the one of Apple: loyalty is not enough, customers also need to spent and motivate others to do the same!

„Loyalty is not enough, customers need to spent a buck and motivate their friends to do the same!“  

So how can you make customers stick to your brand, consume what you produce, and advertise on your behalf? You need a strong brand, relevant products as well as an experience your customers like to share with others. But it’s not enough to excel in just one of these aspects, all of them need to be spot-on for a customer to return the favor! Therefore it’s of no use to just focus on the design of your products and services, or to just rework your service rendering, or to simply pimp your brand. It’s not about those individual instruments, it’s the orchestra that counts!

And this is where the issue begins: most businesses are run by administers! People that are great in managing an individual part of an organization and in making it efficient and effective; people trained to make decisions that administer the organization in making sure it will achieve set targets. Most businesses are run by managers that can manage well – but what they can’t is to orchestrate.

„Most businesses are run by managers, that can manage well – but what they can’t is orchestrate.“

Being a business’ ‚director‘ is not to instruct people to behave according to set rules or to manage them towards given targets. [Try to direct an orchestra that way and you will administer them at best: the result might be a service, but the experience created will unlikely be recommended!] To truly ‚conduct‘ business in the creation of outstanding customer experiences does not require a leader per se, it requires leadership. Leadership is not something executed by one person – it’s merely ‚conducted‘ by one person. Leadership happens when all involved in a business are led by a common understanding of what has to be achieved, disregarding their role or status.

This means that leadership is an organizational aspect, a reflection of the connectedness and purpose dissemination amongst those active therein. Leadership has to be in all for an organization to be led effectively.

„Leadership has to be in all for an organization to be led effectively.“

So what is leading the way within businesses? What is the common understanding that creates purpose? For businesses there can only be one topic: the customer! The customer is both at the beginning and at the end-point of a value chain: it’s the reason to generate a proposition and the one to return the value through consumption, use, and recommendation. Business value is generated through the top-line delivered by customers, you can’t ‚save‘ your way into prosperity.

So the crucial thing to develop in businesses is a shared view on creating value for the customer: the more an organization is centered on the customer, the more leadership can be applied effectively, the more effective the business will be (assuming, it’s already run efficiently). But most businesses have no idea who their customers really are, let alone, that they know to what extent their organization is centered on them. They might know – through the use of employee engagement surveys – that their cantina needs fresher veggies and that incentives are unevenly spread, but in how far the organization is set-up to collectively and effectively work to deliver an outstanding customer experience remains guess-work. Yes, you can ask a customer, for instance through NPS™, and find out how they rate their experience with you. But a customer will point and those issues that went wrong or well in an experience, and not to the work that was done to create it. Asking a customer is too late, the damage is already done. You better ask the organization. You have to find out, how ‘fit’ your organization really is, in how far all involved are truly customer-centered.

„Asking a customer is too late, the damage is already done.“

Understanding organizational fitness is crucial to develop strategies and propositions that can capture the customer’s attention and its loyal motivation (spending!). You can’t win a bicycle race on an old clunker, neither when you are not fit. So if management and design look after the quality of the bike, it’s the CEO’s job to work on the fitness! The CEO has to lead an organization to develop leadership, and the best way to start is to figure out where the organizational fitness stands. Subsequently, you want to find out where strengths and weaknesses are and develop a training plan to improve.

Your leadership (fitness) development plan could look like this:

  1. Fitness test: check the organizations’ customer-centricity, using the Customer Centricity Score™
  2. Interpretation: establish a clear overview of strengths and weaknesses
  3. Root cause analysis: use a reflection method to find out what drives the symptoms, to understand that what you observe is not where the problem lies
  4. Improvement plan: use the insights from the reflection to design measures to improve leadership (these are always personal – never they are ready-made recipes)
  5. Empower change: create the conditions for teams and individuals to follow-up on the improvement plans
  6. Sanity check: compare your view of the organizational fitness with the customer’s view: you will see, there is a correlation!
  7. Close the loop: check the fitness again (remeasure CCScore™) and engage the organization in a continuous improvement activity

And don’t forget: it’s easy to get a great racing bike, but it takes years of dedicated training to be fit enough to ride it properly!

More information on organizational fitness at

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