leaders eat last

4 Ways Customers Come First if Leaders Eat Last


44% of US customers take their business elsewhere due to bad/inadequate service.

Why do they leave?

Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last is not only a great tool for leadership development but it can also help your business better communicate with your customers.

I’ve been a Simon Sinek fan for a few years now, starting from that legendary TEDx Talk he did on starting with why. It really helped me to look at motivation, leadership and connecting with others in a new way when communicating. Over the years, I’ve included that question whenever I could, building communication strategies or working with clients to get to the point of the project. I have to say I was pretty eager to get my hands, eyeballs and thoughts wrapped around his latest book: Leaders Eat Last.

It was a great read but it also cemented the importance of including customers when thinking of how best to lead. After all, customers would love their business’s to lead when it comes to service.

Four Ways Customers Will Benefit if Leaders Eat Last:

  1. Circle of Safety to Include Customers – to create a strong company, the leadership must foster a “circle of safety” or rather an environment free of criticism around new or contrary ideas, welcoming negative feedback and understanding it’s better to move the whole company forward over individual competitiveness or “one-up-manship”. A leader must protect it’s employee like a parent protects their child. Now think about bringing your customers under that umbrella of safety. A place where they know you have their best interests at heart, that they can complain and you’ll listen and value what they have to say, that it’s about empathy and a human interaction rather than a simple exchange of goods and services. Sounds nice doesn’t it?

    “If your inside the circle of safety, there is a free exchange of information and effective communication. Stress declines and fulfilment rises.” – Simon Sinek

  2. Breaking Rules Helps Us Trust People – Doing what’s right is far more important that doing what’s expected. To really build trust in an organization, Sinek writes about situations where staff had to make hard decisions that went against their company’s policy in order to better serve their co-workers and customers. His example is a little extreme (A traffic controller organizing flight patterns) but still important at any level. We know when a store policy doesn’t serve our customers, especially when we put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. The policy is probably there for a reason but when it gets in the way of building a relationship or fixing the problems of our customers, it might be time to bend or break that rule. Employees must be empowered and free to do so, that’s just how trust happens. And you want your customers to know they are your first priority.

    “And that’s what trust is. We don’t just trust people to obey the rules, we also trust that they know when to break them.” – Simon Sinek

  3. Abstraction Leads to Inhumanity – The further away a company’s leaders get from the people they serve (layers of bureaucracy and hierarchy, not geography), the less they are able to connect or care. The more graphs and facts and figures you use to talk about quarterly sales or old business vs. new business, the less those people are relatable and meaningful as people. Getting to know your customers will build that relationship and long term connection your company wants for repeat business. It’s important to collect metrics and use a customer relationship management system to keep track of them, but think of this information as a way to be a better friend to them.

    “It’s one thing for big numbers to represent money or products. But when big numbers start representing human beings…our ability to emphasize starts to falter.”  – Simon Sinek

  4. Selfish vs Selfless – In each of us we have four chemicals, endorphin (masking pain), dopamine (achieving goals), serotonin (desire recognition of others) and oxytocin (comfort and safety) and many of our organizations take on the behaviours that correlate with these chemicals. Unfortunately, if you lean too far one way, it’s bad for customers, employees and business. For example, the “selfish” chemicals of endorphins and dopamine aim to get things done and are short-term, gimme-it-now, I-want-first-prize focused. The “selfless” chemicals of serotonin and oxytocin strengthen relationships, trust and work long-term to feel the warm and fuzzies. All four of these ingredients work to put your customers first:
    • Endorphins: going outside your comfort zone and giving that extra effort to make a customer happy
    • Dopamine: delivering the product or service you’ve promised
    • Serotonin: putting a smile on the face of your customer when they’ve had a terrible day
    • Oxytocin: knowing your supervisor/manager/leader has your back to better serve your customers.

“Leadership is not a license to do less; it is a responsibility to do more.” – Simon Sinek

From his book, you can certainly take some great examples of how someone shows the traits and actions of a leader. But, taking those same teachings to cover how a business can lead when it comes to customer service is just as powerful.

Share in the comments one thing a company can do to lead in benefit of its customers.

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