Monday, September 19, 2022

The Intersection of Leadership, Employee Experience, and Customer Experience

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Joseph Michelli and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation about leadership, employee experience, and customer experience follow a brief introduction.

Based in Florida, Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., C.S.P., is an internationally sought-after speaker, New York Times #1 bestselling author of ten McGraw-Hill published books, and organizational consultant who transfers his knowledge of exceptional business practices in ways that develop joyful and productive workplaces with a focus on customer experience. His insights encourage leaders and frontline workers to grow and invest passionately in all aspects of their lives.

QUESTION: What is the most important take-away you hope readers will have from your book, Stronger Through Adversity?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: I hope readers will appreciate that COVID-19 was both a test of resilience and an opportunity to emerge stronger from the challenges we all faced. Amid the adversity, many individuals adapted to increase self-care, heighten transparency, enhance compassion, and evaluate what mattered most. From a leadership perspective, I hope readers will learn from the wisdom of the more than 140 senior executives from companies like Microsoft, Google, Starbucks, and Target who graciously shared their insights. Most importantly, I hope the book sparks conversations about how we can create “better than normal” human experiences based on the shared experiences of the pandemic.  

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO create a culture that inspires employees?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: It starts with being authentic and purpose driven. It requires humility and a willingness to listen and learn. We often confuse leadership with bravado and confidence bordering on cockiness. When people read Stronger Through Adversity, it becomes clear that candid, servant-leaders prevail over those who act as if they are unflappable and invulnerable. People want to follow caring, compassionate, and imperfect people. They may comply with authoritative leaders or individuals who provoke fear, but they follow those who tell an honest lullaby and rally people for a cause greater than themselves.

TWEET THIS: People follow those who tell an honest lullaby and rally people for a cause greater than themselves. ~@josephmichelli #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What three leaders inspire you, from history or the current business world, and why?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: I will stick with people, with whom I’ve worked.

The first is Howard Schultz. Howard is currently in the eye of the storm, returning to the helm of Starbucks during recent labor disputes. My work with him dates to writing two books about the company: The Starbucks Experience and Leading the Starbucks Way. Howard is a strategic genius. He understands complex problems and envisions bold and unique solutions, which he charismatically brings to life.

Johnny Yokoyama is the retired owner of The Pike Place Fish Market. Johnny and I co-wrote the book “When Fish Fly.” Even though Johnny’s family lost everything when they were relocated to internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Johnny let go of bitterness and focused on being of service. He led a team that creates unique customer experiences and sold his business to team members, even though he could have made more money selling to outsiders.

Finally, from history I would site my father who worked as a heavy equipment operator in a cement factory. He acted gently, quietly, and with integrity, which earned him respect from his peers and functionally made him a leader without a title.

QUESTION: One of my fave marketing quotes is from Jack Welch: "Marketing is not anyone's job. It's everyone's job." What's your take on that quote?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: I believe we aren’t in business to create a profit but instead are in business to create a customer. It is through customers that all profits come. If we focus on profit, we can make decisions that aren’t in our customer’s best interest. If, however, we truly focus on creating value for customers – we secure the loyalty of our existing customers, and they refer us to their family and friends. So, my take on Jack Welch’s quote is to say “Serving people is everyone’s job. If we do that, it makes marketing a lot easier.”

TWEET THIS: Serving people is everyone’s job. If we do that, it makes marketing a lot easier. ~@josephmichelli #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Erika Andersen, a leadership expert and author, wrote, "Great leaders don't do it alone...they get help." What does this quote mean to you?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: In Stronger Through Adversity, I wrote:

Bestselling author Simon Sinek titled one of his books, Leaders Eat Last. While we might agree that leadership is not about power, prestige, or title, many of us who practice servant leadership do so at the expense of self-care. It is as if true leaders need to put an oxygen mask on as many people as possible before the leader loses consciousness.

In the early days of the pandemic, many of the leaders with whom I spoke reported that they had lost perspective on self-care. They were running on adrenaline, caffeine, and a shortage of sleep. They struggled to find time to attend to their emotional or physical well-being. Their desire to drive solutions often compromised their health, solitude, and self-reflection. Many of them were not “eating last,” but instead, they forgot to eat at all.
In addition to self-care, I spend a lot of time in that book writing about getting off “your island” and reaching out for help. I also offer many examples of how leaders who asked for help, set their organizations up for meteoric success.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: There are a lot of smart people who make terrible leaders. Especially, if they think their intellect is a leadership superpower. Emotional intelligence, however, is another matter. People who possess high empathy, collaboration skills, and resourcefulness are powerful leaders. They know that an aligned team will achieve more than their individual effort or intellect could ever create. Give me a leader who listens, affirms, and sees their job as one of service to their team, and I am all-in. Give me a person with all the right answers, and I will seek purpose, autonomy, and mastery elsewhere.

QUESTION: Those of us who live in the marketing and customer experience worlds have heard the Jeff Bezos empty chair story many times. What does this mean to you?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: I have clients who use the empty chair approach. I see it as a construct for reminding people to filter decision-making through the lens of the customer. It is akin to the "chorus" that symbolized the general population in Greek theater. Whether you use a device like the "empty chair" or designate a team member to be the voice of the customer, organizations prosper when the concerns of the customer are balanced with the needs of team members, shareholders, and other stakeholders.

(Check out the story here:

My thanks to Joseph for sharing his amazing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Check out Joseph's digital footprint:
YouTube Channel: Customer Loyalty and Referrals

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

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