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.