Playing Favorites By Marshall Goldsmith There’s a reason I devote...
Drucker was making the point that, since so many situations in our lives are not so nakedly transactional as the you-buy-what-I-sell exchange between vendor and customer—especially when money isn’t changing hands—identifying the “customer” in every circumstance can be a complex challenge. The customer is not necessarily who you think they are.
This insight hit me hard.
It eventually struck me in my coaching practice that my clients also had to broaden their definition of who their customer was. In the primary position, above all the others, were all the people who worked for my client. After all, the leader’s co-workers benefited personally and professionally if the leader improved their behavior. So I tweaked Drucker’s “customer” into “stakeholder.” I did this to emphasize to clients that their employees had a personal investment — or stake — in their improvement.
I wanted my CEO clients to think of themselves as servant-leaders, always placing top priority on doing what their employees—that is, their stakeholders—valued, before worrying about themselves. The structure I provided was stakeholder-centric, not leader-centric. It was transactional, too, a win-win. Leaders earned their employees’ respect. Employees earned their CEOs’ gratitude. (In fact, on August 19, 2019, the Business Roundtable, in a statement signed by 181 CEOs, formally endorsed the concept of benefitting all major stakeholders as the purpose of the corporation.)
This fresh perspective had value beyond the workplace.
People in customer-facing enterprises do not survive if they’re rude and thoughtless with customers. They display their best behavior to the customer, often better than they do with their co-workers and family. In my experience, when leaders become accustomed to stakeholder-centered thinking at work, that thoughtfulness eventually seeps into their personal life as well. They’re nicer to the people they love—their stakeholders at home. Everyone in their life has become a “customer.”
When that happens, you are creating an environment around you that is more forgiving, helpful, and kind.
People will flock to such a place—and stay there.