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Stay on Top. Stay out Front.

A very large collections call center in Lakela...Image via Wikipedia

You've heard it said that business leaders need to, "work on the business, not in the business."

Do you agree?

Getting mired down in the details can be deadly -- for the leader and the business. Details are like quicksand. They suck you in and there is no bottom. There's always one more email to answer, one more invoice to approve, one more meeting to attend.

But juggling details and courting customers are not the same thing.

Nurturing customer relationships and learning from those who matter most is good.

Think about it. In most organizations, the further leaders are from the customer, the more prestige they have, the bigger the bonuses they get, and the bigger the titles they carry. Likewise -- generally -- the more contact you have with customers, the lower your status.

What's with that?

Bank teller. Call center representative. Receptionist. Grocery bagger. Where they are, is where the business "is" -- the frontline.

  • It's said that Richard Branson was pushing a trolley down the aisle of one of Virgin Airline's jumbo jets, serving drinks to passengers. Later, he commented to the flight crew how difficult it was not to keep bumping into things and how the trolley blocking the aisle was a pain to the customers. It opened up the conversation that led to the decision to move the trolley service in upper class to more of a "waitress-like service."
  • There's the story of CEO Jan Carlzon. He turned around the SAS airline, spending the first couple of weeks in his new job flying as a passenger, hanging around in terminal lounges, listening to customers, and experiencing exactly what they were experiencing. He took notes in a notebook that he carried with him everywhere. When he later stepped into the boardroom to tell the board of his turnaround strategy, it was based on what was in that notebook...the time he'd spent talking and listening to customers.

That's not being immersed in details. That's rubbing shoulders with those who pay the bills and determine a company's destiny.

Want to stay on top? How about staying out of the details and outfront with your customers.

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