Just Being Available Can Make All The Difference
As a marketer, I’ve always been an advocate that customers – those an organization serves – should be a leader’s top priority. Employees come second. Investors then take third place.
But this type of thinking was challenged when I read a book called “Employees First, Customers Second” by Vineet Nayar, the former CEO of a successful global IT services company based in India.
In his book, Nayar documents the account of the transformation of his company from being a typical top-down driven organization to one that is driven by employees working in the “value zone”, the place where customers interface with the company. Under this new model, Nayar claims that within five years his company became one of the fastest-growing firms in the global IT services industry.
Through the various efforts to shift to a self-governing organization, it was the employees that took on the responsibility for change. And it was here that Nayar describes how his leadership team learned to embrace the value of availability.
“There we were, the senior leadership team, standing up in front of the entire company, taking all questions, opening ourselves to every comment. Just by being available and by being transparent as we could be in our comments and answers, we built trust with the members of the audience.”
Readers of Nayar’s book will quickly pick up on some key attributes practiced within the company, including transparency and trust, the willingness to take risks, and the supportive nature of the leadership team. But I believe the real secret to the company’s success started with leaders simply making themselves available.
In my own experience, I have found this to be one of the top complaints of employees across all types of organizations. Many employees wish their leaders were available when they needed them.
So, why is being available so important?
Today, it’s normal for everyone to need answers right now! The speed of information has become more critical than ever. Leaders can no longer run everything on their own timetable. It is imperative to respond to questions, concerns, and the needs of others in a timely manner.
Customers, employees, shareholders, channel partners, suppliers, and more all want answers – and they want it now. Even if a leader does not have the answer, or know the whole answer, it’s more important than ever to share what is known vs. not sharing at all (or worse, hiding).
In other words, leaders don’t have to have all the answers. They just need to be available to share what they can. Availability can make all the difference.