Good employees are responsive to customers. Great employees innovate ways to build relationships. In a world where outstanding customer service is frequently the norm, it is customer relationships that count.
Empowering people can be motivating and serve as a boon to your business’s results, but only if you do it right. However, nothing engenders cynicism more than pro forma exercises in prima facie empowerment. Too frequently, I find ham-fisted attempts of managers at making people feel empowered, often at the behest of some kind of edict issued by HR managers who are oblivious to the damage they cause.
There is no percentage in fear of the hypothetical, no matter how reasonable a hypothesis might sound. Anyone can prognosticate doom about anything someone doesn’t like for whatever reasons. The impossible is only something no one has done yet.
If you have ever heard someone use the adjectives traditional Japanese to describe an uninspiring manager, the moniker is only half-true. Only by replacing the word traditional with mediocre can you accurately reflect reality. There is nothing traditional about mediocrity in Japan, just as anywhere else in the world.
The best military strategists always choose the terrain on which they will do battle, rather than allowing the enemy to choose for them. So, in business, why would you possibly allow others to define the topography of your business environment instead of choosing the topography yourself?
Yet, that is often precisely what business people do.
What if your prospects and clients have no pain points and no problems?
Presumption of damage is never a good way to start a relationship with anyone, whether in business or otherwise.
Not long ago, I was working with a sales team to help improve their capability to ask questions when meeting with prospects. Without fail, during role plays when I played the customer, each one asked me variations of “Do you have any particular problems?”
When I responded, “No, we don’t have any particular problems,” each salesperson was flustered and did not know how to respond. Each one, after a few awkward exchanges, simply withdrew and promised to call again at a later date.
While I sometimes hear CEOs complain about their lack of authority in a matrix organization, the most successful CEOs I know never do. They have all mastered the matrix, wield tremendous authority, and influence their own and the business’s advantage despite the ambiguities inherent to a matrix organization. If you are the CEO of a Japanese operation of a global company, work within a matrix organization, and you feel your authority is stymied, think again. You just might have far more power and authority than you realize, if you know how to wield these right.
If you want to achieve dramatic change in mindset and behavior, the fastest way is through provocation. By provocation, I mean deliberately evoking a visceral emotional response in others. There is nothing wrong with provocation if you do it right. It’s just that, as a leader, you ought to be provocative, but never a provocateur—the two are not the same.