Are Leaders Blinded by Looking Through the Wrong Lens?

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


The Problem: Top leadership may be somewhat blind to the most straightforward path towards providing a much better customer experience, and ultimately better financial results. The solution may be so obvious that it’s difficult to see.

The way business gets done and delivered to customers ends up being hardwired into an organization. People are hired and trained to deliver “the way things get done here.” Even with all the management trends over the last decades (total quality, re-engineering, Six Sigma, Agile, etc), the purpose of process design is mostly driven by finding a better financial outcome or improved customer result. Too often as an afterthought, we ask what people have to do to execute. When work processes are too complex, mindless, sometimes even dangerous, with the desired results disappointing, the view management frequently defaults to is: “We just need better people and production,” or let’s “train them better.” When things aren’t progressing the way management likes, the narrative will eventually evolve to “we need better performance management,” (aka let’s fire and replace). 

The Solution: The overwhelming factor based on my experience and research, in determining whether employees are fully engaged, is their ability to deliver customers and teammates a consistently great experience. When people end their day knowing they have created much value for others, they feel energized and happily return to do it again. On the other hand, if they go home after constantly apologizing, doing work arounds, and even fearing for their safety, to give an unpredictable or consistently poor experience, it is exhausting, demoralizing, and unsustainable. Subsequently, truly excellent leaders are always asking the PEOPLE FIRST question: “What’s it like for an employee to deliver a designed process to others?” If the answer is unacceptable for working people, the delivery process needs to be redesigned, eliminated and/or ultimately replaced by machines. The answer ideally is never oversimplified as “just getting better people” or even worse, “let’s just export the lousy process/jobs to a place where disadvantaged or more desperate people will do just about anything for work.”

This is what “PEOPLE FIRST and CUSTOMER OBSESSED” means when I state it. Knowing that you work somewhere where leaders are on a constant hunt to look at designing better work through the eyes of “PEOPLE FIRST” is THE most important path to happy customers, shareholders, and the people who deliver and define the company brand. Design jobs and processes that make people feel like they have superpowers, and everyone wins!  

If this is helpful, here are some steps you might take:

  1. Identify just one small process people really hate to do. Ask why? Redesign through the lens of PEOPLE FIRST. Be prepared to be carried around the room in celebration when you and the team really fix it.
  2. Identify one enterprise process or system that’s been so seriously broken, it’s been a thorn in the side for people as long as you’ve been around. Ask why no one has ever done anything to really crush it. Then actually do something about it. That will increase employee engagement more than a pay raise.

Think BIG, start small, act now!


One Millennial View: In a world where service can be so routinely mediocre, it’s amazing how a little more goes a long way in the PEOPLE FIRST game. There’s likely small things most organizations can do, you just have to name it. 

– Garrett

Blog 968

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis