How Our Customers Help Us Grow

Today I started working with a new client that reminded me of some fantastic basic lessons in how much there is to keep learning from our customers.

The coaching program I designed, and is supported by the client’s boss, includes a 360 degree leadership assessment.  “No big deal” I am thinking.  “Let’s just see how you and others perceive you as a leader”, I say. “And from there, we can set some development goals that make sense for your situation.”  Typically, the clients I use 360 assessments with see them as a positive, enriching and strategic component to supporting leadership development.  But to this client, it was a HUGE big deal.  She was freaking out about having to do a 360 assessment, and her boss and I were clueless until we opened up the conversation about it.

We were reminded that there are bosses and HR professionals who don’t use 360 assessments constructively – specifically her past bosses.   They called in the Executive Coach to bring their 360 feedback assessments to sort out problem people and try to fix them. Most of the time, these situations turned out in terminations.  Yikes!! The problem is, what is broken is not usually the person.  It’s the way the company manages performance, or the way the boss handles developing their people.  In those cases, 360 degree feedback gets a bad rap.

So we pulled back today and decided not to send the leader into the fray where she would have to prove to those she asked to participate that she isn’t in hot water or one foot out the door.

The bummer is, she will have to wait a lot longer to get some really rich feedback about what she does really well and should keep doing – something she could use a good dose of right now after having weathered a tough company acquisition.

That’s OK and we will figure out other ways to support her growth.  But………..what a great wake up call for me about a few things that I think apply to many situations.

1. Never assume you understand the reality someone else is living.  Take the time to ask good questions early in a relationship and often as you go.  Things change fast, and history has a lot of force.

2. Be prepared to change direction from your “ideal” solution to one that makes the most sense for those you are serving

3. Be patient and creative.  There are many ways to get to the same outcome.

I’m sure there are more, but was told once that 3 is a good number to start with. Things don’t always turn out how you think they will.  Glad today we were all open to doing things differently.  Here’s to learning from our customers!

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