Whom do you serve?
Having clarity or confusion in answering this simple question will either drive all the right behavior or leave you waffling in executing your daily mission in life.
Some of you may remember the lyrics of the Grammy-award-winning song by Bob Dylan:
You're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody
Isn't this the truth? Every one of us has got to serve somebody. The question is, whom do you serve?
Misalignment of Priorities
Recently I was asked to conduct a leadership development program for a large, well-respected European firm. While their brand is known for quality, their local facility was struggling to produce what they're famous for producing.
I asked a roomful of 34 leaders a very simple question: Why do you exist? (I could have easily asked today’s question, Whom do you serve?) With little surprise, I received 20 or more different responses, none of them correct. The right answer was their customers. That facility exists to deliver high-quality performance and products to their customers, profitably. Short of that, they fail as an organization.
I now had a far clearer understanding as to why this facility was struggling. They didn’t have a clue as to whom they were serving. The management team was extremely busy, many putting in 12- to 16-hour days, yet still they were failing at their basic mission of serving their customers well. How does this happen?
Unfortunately this is not an uncommon story. Organizations and individuals alike often get so caught up in the execution of daily tasks, agendas, achieving their goals, that they quickly forget whom they're really serving and why.
Case in point: Many spouses have forged ahead with the success of their career to provide for their family, causing them to work long hours and travel many weeks and months of the year. In doing so, they sacrifice their most precious asset: time spent in relationship with their family. Often, many wake up to the truth when it's too late, only after the divorce has gone through or the children have grown up and gone.
So how about you? Do you know whom you serve and why?
The great news is if you have lost your way with regards to knowing whom you serve and why, there's hope!
Here are some simple points of advice to improve your relationships with those you serve:
Know Your Customers
It sounds simple, but few people know their customers. Make a quick list of who you believe your internal and external customers are, with your firm and/or your family.
Customer Assessment of Your Performance
Make time to have a meaningful conversation with your customers. Ask them for their assessment of your performance.
If you are a senior leader at your company, do not pass this off to others. Personally sit down with your top clients and ask them how well you are serving them with regards to quality, timeliness, attitude, etc.
If you are doing this with your spouse and/or children, set up a special lunch or dinner. Ask them similar questions about how well you are serving them with your time, attention, money, etc.
Once your customer or family has given you feedback on what they would like to see change — do it! Not everything can be changed overnight, and most people understand this. Set up a schedule to address outstanding issues prioritized from your customer's perspective. Meet regularly to communicate progress toward improvements.
If you haven’t engaged in this type of activity, or it’s been a long time since you have, do it immediately. Your business and relationships will thrive!
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About the Author
Tim MacDonald joined OneAccord as a Principal in 2018. He brought with him more than 25 years of senior management experience having served in small, medium and global companies as president, vice president of sales and vice president of operations. His accomplishments include exponential growth and bringing struggling companies back from the brink.
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