Why Developing Leaders Will Improve Your Customer Service

Stagnation sucks.

It is more than just standing still. It is more akin to wilting on the vine or rotting on the shelf. It reeks of neglect and complacency.

And Customers notice.

But it doesn’t have to happen to your organization.

Most likely, you have some form of development program for your team, but are you putting all the effort, care, and attention into the process that it deserves? Probably not and you are not alone. Not that being a part of a big club makes it okay, but it does mean that you have plenty of company on the road to redemption.

This is a fabulous way to set yourself apart as an employer, a supervisor, and as a Leader. This idea of being a capital L Leader doesn’t stop with making good decisions and setting a great example. It also extends to helping folks become the best version of themselves. It means sometimes pushing them into areas in which they might not be comfortable for the good of their career, the Customer, and the business.

You have to start by setting great goals. There must be a mix of experiences, development activities, and classroom style learning to keep the development relevant. The problem here is that most times this is a “check the box” activity that doesn’t really push the team. Often when you think about the “SMART” goals that most organizations push for, the goals are often short of truly challenging. There should be a bit of stretch in those goals, and while some should be reasonable and achievable, others really need to push them hard enough to find their limits.

Make sure that the goals bring that constructive stress that leads to learning. You really can’t learn a thing in the comfort zone, so do your team the favor of making them uncomfortable enough to learn something. Be careful though, if you push them into panic they could shut down or quit. A final note here is to be sure to involve the team in the development planning process – it’s great for you to have many of the ideas in their plans, but without their involvement it will feel too much like a glove made for someone else when they try it on for size. Your views of what they need to develop will, in many cases, be very different than their thoughts. That’s okay though, since the conversation you will have regarding the goal setting is a powerful part of the process.

Check in regularly to be sure that they are progressing. This is often where things come off the tracks – and I’ll admit the part that I have fallen prey to over the years. You set up this great plan, meet to discuss, and then pull it out 12 months later to see how things went. See the problem here? The pitfall of development planning is that it is so easy to shove it in a desk drawer and dust it off at the end of the year. You have to guard against that danger. If you don’t review these plans at least monthly with your team, you can’t keep the car between the guardrails and make sure that the relevant resources are available when needed.

I find that simple planning helps a lot here. Setting regular calendar appointments to meet with your team regarding their plans and progress will help you keep them on track. You have to stick to them and you can’t allow other demands to push them off your schedule – but if you keep these regular touch points in place it will hold both parties accountable. It also has the added benefit of keeping your team from falling behind with activities and milestones that have been set up to ready them for the next step in their careers.

Finally, be creative with regard to development planning. Certainly the old stand bys are still very relevant:

  • Books and readings are always welcome. With books available on audio book and E Book, it’s easier than ever to squeeze them into a busy day. Reading a few pages a day or listening to 20 minutes during a commute can certainly help to painlessly integrate some new learning into a busy day. Creating Magic, Leading with Meaning, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and my book Recipe for Service can all be great resources. There are also niche magazines and web sites for almost every industry – these are a great investment in any career.
  • Classes make for great learning experiences as well. It doesn’t necessarily have to be continuing education classes, but often many vocations such as medicine and teaching have required courses to stay on track. There is no shortage of courses out there that offer everything from a single afternoon to a week-long seminar. If you are looking for a jumping off point, check out the Disney Institute or John Maxwell Co. for programs which might be beneficial.
  • Keep the responsibility on both sides. Life and business is hard enough, so everyone needs to pitch in. The responsibility for development rests as much with the individual as it does with the Leader. That said, many folks differ on how much responsibility lies with each person, but everyone can agree that it will take both to craft a plan, stay on track with regular check ins, and achieve the goals which are set.

There is a lot riding on the development of future Leaders for every organization. It isn’t just the entry level Leaders, either. Businesses which don’t want to have to fret about the next round of mid-level Leaders and Executives must groom and grow at all levels to keep the organization energized. Otherwise they can find themselves at the mercy of the exterior market to provide their Leaders or suffer through those who are underprepared for the burdens of Leadership.

The logical extension of that eventuality is a disengaged work force and dissatisfied Customers.

Until next time, develop those Leaders and team members like cherished Friends.

Tony

Tony Johnson
Customer Service Expert | Author | Trainer | Speaker

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http://www.amazon.com/Recipe-Service-Inspire-Deliver-Customer/dp/0986391204

About The Author

Tony Johnson

I’m a 22 year veteran of delivering terrific Guest experiences. I believe in putting the Customer at the center of what we do everyday. . .Let’s face it, if we take great care of our Guests, the rest just falls into place.