Wednesday, February 20, 2019
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Leading Up and the Effects on Customer Service

by Scott M. Lewis

The philosophy of “leading up” is something I experimented with many years ago. With it, I had a lot of success building a trusting and productive working relationship with my longtime assistant.

I am now in the process of implementing a leading up model throughout my entire company to improve our overall communication, get the team to think more strategically, improve decision-making processes, and empower all our team members to act more decisively when interacting with and managing our customers.

The leading up philosophy is based on the premise that the people who know best are the people doing the work — those in the trenches who may or may not be making decisions — which is affecting customer service. A major component of leading up is that if the subordinate and the manager have a trusted working relationship, the subordinate is free to disagree, advise and guide the manager to more effective and productive decisions. This also means that managers have to be open and willing to listen and productively debate wide-ranging issues to find solutions that are good not only for the client but also for the company in general.

A key component that I have seen work very effectively is inclusion, which basically means employees have to be included in meetings that are going to directly affect them and their work processes. The thought is that if they are going to be held accountable for the implementation of a strategic initiative, then they should be included in all the meetings where those strategic processes are discussed. Being included in the process, from conception of the idea to development, action and implementation, is key to the employees’ ability to understand, have input and then be held accountable for the new process or strategic initiative.

Also effective is the documentation and distribution of the information to the entire team, which includes a method to respond to the initiative that could then open up new avenues for discussion as relevant feedback comes back from the entire team.

Some of the other key ingredients to successful leading up strategies, according to Cross Co. CEO Steve Earley, are:

- Honesty and integrity. If you are to instill a true leading up philosophy, the people you are trying to lead have to believe that the leadership on all levels is being honest and open with them. This is why I feel that the inclusion process is so important; with it, the employees see that there are no hidden management agendas and the leadership shows that they are trustworthy. It also demonstrates that the process of accountability applies at all levels throughout the entire organization.

- Outstanding self-awareness. I have always felt that I have great self-awareness. Not only do I understand my own shortcomings, but I admit them to my team and acknowledge them when they get the best of me. However, I also include my team in my journey to correct and improve on my shortcomings. Leading up will not work if the leaders do not have a full understanding of their strengths and weaknesses because a fundamental foundation of the leading up philosophy is that the leadership and the employees understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and then manage each other to the strengths and fill the gaps in the weaknesses to form a strong cohesive team.

- Vision. For a leading up strategy to be successful, the leadership has to remain focused on the overall strategic plan for the business and not get caught up in the individual tasks. Leaders have to present to the team a clear road map of goals and objectives that guide the employees in the effort to implement the strategic initiatives. However, the initiatives have to be representative of a rational path that is achievable and sustainable based on your target customer base and the value your business brings to that customer base.

- Courage. What does it really mean to have courage? Courage could mean being self-confident, decisive and willing to take risks even when logic may dictate otherwise. It could also mean a willingness to go it alone. However, with all that said, it is also important for leaders to not let courage be confused with arrogance because that would not allow for trust or a successful leading up strategy. Courage could also mean humility, caring, understanding and willingness to allow others to express honest opinions and guidance. This doesn’t mean there is no conflict or disagreement or that at the end of the day, leaders don’t have to make a decision, but it does mean you have the conversation.

There are many aspects to a leading up strategy; this is just a starting point — something to maybe get you curious about how to implement a leading up strategy within your own company. I will be writing more about leading up and how to implement this strategy within your business to improve the overall customer experience in upcoming articles.

Scott Lewis is the president and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies. Scott has more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry and is a nationally recognized speaker and author on technology subjects. He has worked with businesses to empower them to use technology to improve work processes, increase productivity and reduce costs. He has designed thousands of systems for large, medium and small companies, and Winning Technologies’ goal is to work with companies on the selection, implementation, management and support of technology resources. For more information, visit www.winningtech.com or call 877-379-8279.
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