John Fravel hard at work...

Yesterday we were in the process of pulling together samples for a corporate buyer.  We were reviewing the samples that were being shipped before they were boxed.  John, our director of business development, was being extremely meticulous, following everything to the letter, as is his nature.  No one handles the details better than he does.

He asked me to review the products before they were shipped.  After doing so I suggested that we add a number of additional items, none of which the buyer had requested.

John became frustrated with me.  He furrowed his brow and stated, “That is not what the buyer requested.”  My response to him was, “Don’t always give the buyer only what they ask for; be sure to give them, in addition, what you know they need.”

John’s initial reaction was to disagree.  This morning he suggested that I write my next blog about the discussion we had yesterday.

To unpack this further, here are some of the areas where this school of thought fits in.

1.  In the example above, the expertise developed within an organization is highly refined.  The onus is on the organization to supply for their client products and results that the customer may not be aware exists.  Provide for the customer what you know they are looking for, not necessarily what they ask for.

2. The leader of an organization has the responsibility to provide for the organization not necessarily what the organization may want but what the leader knows it needs.

On occasion this will cause frustration within the organization, but leaders are not in a popularity contest.  Nor are they constantly looking behind them to see who is following.  They must have developed the expertise and the confidence to provide what they know is needed.

3.  The management team that a leader surrounds himself/herself with has this same responsibility to the leader.  They must not limit themselves to answering the questions that are being asked but leap ahead of the question, and provide the answer for the question that has not been verbalized.

When someone responds to one of my inquiries with a response that includes the words “whatever you want” I become irritated.

The direction of an organization is not necessarily what the leader wants, but what is best for the organization.  More often than not, the leader looks to his people to provide essential direction.  The team has to be empowered to disagree and challenge leadership, with the ultimate goal of discovering for, or with, the leader the solutions that pushes the organization forward.

To enable these types of healthy exchanges, a safe and secure atmosphere must be created where people are encouraged to respectfully challenge the ideas of others, where experimentation is encouraged, where failure is accepted, and where differences of opinion are openly verbalized.

A successful organization seldom operates effectively with a dogmatic, dictatorial leader.  If it is successful under that style of leadership, it will survive only as long as the leader is present. More often than not, the organization will function in an oppressive environment.

Successful organizations are ones that intuit the needs of the markets they serve before those needs are articulated, while at the same time creating an environment where both management and leadership recognize that they don’t have all of the solutions, but are constantly in search of them while being open and receptive to each other.


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  1. Audrey Frank Gliege says:

    Jerold here, Audj’s man. I resonate totally with you assessment, both from a business and Church perspective. Progressive thinking is a hard task that many do not want to engage in. When we visited your establishment this Spring, it was obvious that your organization is forward thinking. Merry christmas!
    – Jerold

    Audrey here – I invite Jerold to read your blogs from time to time so he as well can be given food for thought by your usually ‘profound’ blogs.
    What with Christmas and all, I might add my ‘Amen’ to delivering what you know/hope/pray will someday be realized as a wise, though perhaps slight amendment to the original ‘order’/request. E.g. I decided to buy myself and 3 oldest grandchildren, ages 8, 9 & 10, ukulele’s for Christmas (2 red, 1 black, 1 wood – even pretty). My daughter screeched when I gave her the glorious heads-up (later apologized) and Jerold often asks me, “Are you doing/buying this for yourself or for them?” How dare he judge me so harshly – and, famous last words, “Some day they’ll all thank me…!!” Would that be a correct analagy with your thinking Peter?

    • peter says:

      A two for one reply! That’s a first. Thanks, Jerold, for your gracious words.

      Audrey, depending on one’s perspective, yes, that could be an analogy!

  2. Ed Taylor says:

    It is hard to completely agree with this “blanket” statement depending on the particular product and or service delivered to the customer. But, I agree that probably in most situations this would be the best strategy to pursue. If you give the customer only what they want they may only be happy for a short time but if you give them what they need they may be happy with the purchase for a longer period of time and are much more likely to return for more and tell others of their satisfaction.

    My experience comes from the retail side of selling floor covering and decorative home items. Many customers would say they wanted to purchase a product for a certain amount because they couldn’t or didn’t want to spend more. They may also say they wanted a certain color or type of material. It was my job to try to find out how the product was going to be used and what their expectations of it were. So, when the product failed after a short time I would hear something like, “why didn’t you tell me….”

    I had given them what they wanted, but not what they needed.

    • peter says:

      I’m glad you mentioned this Ed. I was regretting that I had not addressed the retail industry more specifically in my blog. A good retailer obviously follows this concept – offer the customer what you know they want! Be ahead of the curve, not behind it. Thanks.

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