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In my background as a serial entrepreneur, many are unaware that one of my first leadership positions was as CEO of Franklin Quest Canada (1988-1991) followed by a 5-year term as Managing Director of the First Things First division of the Covey Leadership Center in Utah.
These were fulfilling experiences that have impacted me in all of the positions and roles I’ve held since. I’ve stayed in tune with each of the books published by Franklin Covey authors, and the experience even contributed to my desire to publish my own book on character-based leadership, “The 7 Non-Negotiables of Winning” from Wiley & Sons.
So I was especially intrigued by the chance to review an advance copy of “Leading Loyalty: Craking the Code to Customer Devotion” by Franklin Covey authors Sandy Rogers, Leena Rinne and Shawn Moon, which is premiers today, April 16, 2019. This book is particularly interesting to me as it correlates loyalty leadership principles with an area that is one of my favorites of all—sales, and the ability to create loyal customers in an increasingly challenging world.
What does it mean to have a Loyalty Mindset?
In “Leading Loyalty,” the others present three core principles of a loyalty mindset: empathy, responsibility and generosity. These are principles we’ve been taught from the time we were children, but unfortunately, they’ve been lost as common practice in many of our interactions with people and organizations today. For a variety of reasons—worries about the economy, rising benefit costs, increasing tensions over regulation, inclusion, diversity and political turmoil have left leaders, businesses and customers to deal with increasing levels of stress.
And on top of this, we are all incredibly busy. In the whirlwind of our lives, we often lose sight of the power of these principles in our interactions with others, both at work and in the community and even at home.
A fundamental answer, of course, is to make these character-based principles a higher priority. But how? This is where Leading Loyalty provides some easy-to-follow and effective answers. The authors propose a series of 15 minute “loyalty huddles” each week, each with specific objectives to make the process consistent, constructive and fun. In each week’s huddle, (lead by leaders at the start, but assigning the role to team members as the program progresses), the team celebrates individuals who are living the loyalty principles. They learn about the nuances of applying each one, provide examples, and make commitments to each other to reflect the principles in the following week. The book suggests 11 huddles that the team can repeat for any length of time, perhaps even forever.
How can companies inspire loyalty with customers they’ll never meet face to face? Whether in person, via phone or online, every individual we interact with in any respect is a customer. Imagine the wording on an email or a receipt. Even more importantly, how does the team react to the myriad customer service requests such as responding to an exchange or a return or addressing a lost or damaged item.
Time by time we can demonstrate that we really care about a customer, or we can come across as indifferent or even apathetic. The cost to a business of disengaged and apathetic employees is astronomical in dollars alone, but in terms of lost customers, reputation and risk it is hard to even quantify the loss a lack of loyalty mindset can cause. For example, the book tells the story of a young couple who purchased clothing and furniture for the baby they were expecting.
Then they lost the baby. The wife, feeling too distraught to address the situation, asked the husband if he would return the goods. He did, explaining to the vendor the reason for their many returns. The company employee responded the goods could not be returned without the receipts (true, according to the company’s policy). Many angry exchanges later the issue had made waves across social media and had even gone to the press. The company faced terrible consequences for an issue that began with a simple omission—the inability to listen to the customer with empathy and determine the right things to be done.
How do we discover the “real job to be done?” This is one of the biggest values of “Leading Loyalty,” in my opinion. Some improvement programs talk about the skill of “speaking to the other’s listening.” Instead of listening passively or distractedly as we wait for the other person to finish so we can defend or respond, it is vital to listen intently, with full engagement, observing what is said with the eyes and the heart as well as in the person’s words. This will tell us what the person is really needing. Perhaps it isn’t “soccer equipment,” but a way to instill confidence in a child who is nervous about never having played on a competitive sports team before. Perhaps the person whose voice is wavering on the phone is less concerned about their prescription than frightened and worried about the medical prognosis they face. The way you or your employees respond can show empathy, careful responsibility, and generosity in fulfilling the assignment in a way that is specific to their concern and demonstrates generosity of service and spirit as well as delivering on the requested result.
What is a leader’s responsibility in Leading for Loyalty? Loyalty is in the hands of every team member and employee, of course, but the foundation of empathy, responsibility and generosity begins at the top. If a leader gives lip service to these principles but then falls down on his or her own commitments, the principles will not ring true. It is difficult for employees who feel de-valued or disregarded to show empathy and generosity to the customers they serve.
One CEO suddenly realized he’d been deeply embedded in KPI (Key Performance Indicator) numbers for so many seasons that he no longer knew the names or about the lives of many of his employees. He was so taken aback by this critical error he held a full-company meeting in which he dramatically threw the stack of KPI’s in the trash.
“We all know these numbers intimately as I’ve talked about them often, and at length,” he said. Then he gave his personal commitment that he would never again lose sight of the people behind the numbers, the vital roles they fulfilled, and the way their work in the company intersected with their families and lives. He lived up to the commitment, instituting programs to focus on the employees that celebrated their wins and rallied around the ones who’d experienced personal trials or losses. He listened to their ideas, at every level, and he showed through his attention and his actions that he genuinely cared. Not surprisingly, the KPIs that were now seldom mentioned in company meetings had soared.
These are the outcomes that come from Leading Loyalty. I look forward to reviewing and following the principles in this new book for many seasons to come.
April 16, 2019 at 11:03AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs