Engagement Begins with the Leader


After all the times I have written, lectured and directed leaders about the benefits of “engagement”, here I go again. Indeed, the benefits of engaging customers are staggering…period. According to Bain Consulting Group, since 2001, “engaged” organizations have outperformed the S&P average cumulative share price by margins up to 99%!

Simply stated, the reason why companies can’t engage their customers is because leaders fail to engage their employees.  They might be inept, careless, too busy or a whole host of other reasons but in most cases, I think they forget that the basis for company engagement is defining what the company is really all about: the story and the mission.

No doubt you have seen blasé missions splashed on the walls and websites of countless organizations.  Sometimes they are so basic that they make no impact on us at all.

Here’s a classic example:

The mission of THE COMPANY is to offer ITS CUSTOMERS competitive prices and a great THEIR PRODUCT. The company will make a healthy profit for its owners and provide a rewarding work environment for its employees.

This generic fill-in your own company, customers and product will not engage anyone! (Believe it or not, this is an actual mission statement that a consultant suggested as a “great” example. Painful!) I can find countless mission statements that fit into this worthless model.

I love what Jerry Garcia said: “You don’t want to be the best at what you do, you want to be the only one.”

Without true direction, most companies limp along reacting to the ups and downs of the economy and threats from the competition, and trying to identify what customers want right now. Some get lucky and stumble into an innovative breakthrough, and others are not so lucky and end up closing their doors.

Leadership sets the direction and must answer critical questions:

“What do we want to tell the world about our company?”

“What are we trying to achieve?”

“How are we going to be unique?”

Here are some “engaging” messages from some of the best: “Provide the finest in family entertainment”, “We exist to create experiences where passion and purpose come together”, “Spreading the power of optimism”, “to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential”. You probably know the first one is from Disney!

Here are some guidelines for putting your Story or Mission together:

  • What are the one or two fabulous, awesome, “bang-up” things about your product or service? I call these FABs. More than two will confuse both you and your customer.
  • Do you deliver your FABs? It is OK if you can’t do it now, but do you really believe that you can and will in the future?
  • Work toward uniqueness. Do not get hung up by asking, “Are you likely to buy this new product?” If Steve Jobs would have listened only to customers in the 1990s, we may never have had iPods.
  • Focus your energies on delivering your FABs!

Leaders need to become like an “evangelistic zealot” of their companies’ stories. Unless they are true believers, their employees will not believe and most certainly, their customers will never love their product or service.

Becoming “engaging” is not as simple as it sounds. There’s a lot of very hard work involved in developing a unique product or service, and crafting a great story that is worthy of reverberating off your company’s walls!

Stay tuned for next week’s chat!