So, what’s the difference?
First, thanks to longtime reader and friend, Harley Kaufman, for the thought and title for this insight. He stated, “Too often it seemed our internal staff was more focused on getting the ‘work’ (daily tasks) done and not enough on the ‘job’ (supporting subordinates with resources and encouragement.)”
Wait. Had I been guilty?
Of course, this comment made me think of the many times I had been guilty of this more than occasional heads-down office work over the years of management and assume that most of you who have supervised others have fallen into the same trap. I recall one of my CEO’s when I was his chairman, stating, “If you are not serving our customers, then you should be supporting those who do”. Is that statement a bit of a stretch for those in the lowest levels of office work, such as posting accounts payable invoices? Maybe not.
How do you frame menial desk jobs as “customer support?”
[Email readers, continue here…] Even the most menial of jobs fit into the grand scheme of customer support. Some accounts payable invoices come from suppliers providing the company resources to serve the customer. Moreover, most managers of all groups work to make the company better at servicing the sales staff, the customer support group, or the customer directly. So, it would be easier to see why you’d want to get behind the rallying cry from that CEO who focused his staff upon the customer – and the company’s mission – which surely incorporated the customer in the first sentence.
Shout it out!
Harley went further by hanging a banner on the wall of the office with the headline to this insight in bold, large type. He made it clear that this wasn’t just another sentence in a mission statement to be read by a few and immediately forgotten.
Let’s take this thought one step further.
If you manage even one other person, are you guilty of focusing upon your deskwork a bit too often when you could have been coaching, supporting, and asking generating questions of your subordinate(s)?
“What problems are you working with where you could use resources or help?” “Where is your bottleneck, preventing you from doing your job most efficiently?” “How can I help you succeed today and in the longer run?” “What if you had more resources, how would you use them to better serve our customers?” “What do you see happening that we could do better?”
Generative questions such as these make people think and respond in ways they might not have considered. That’s much better than “How’re you doing today?” to which most people would respond, “Fine” and which would usually end the conversation without generating any positive or negative response or thought.
So, with these thoughts and questions aimed at you, are you a manager who uses generative questions to elicit thoughtful conversations? If not, consider how you can better support your customers directly or by supporting your direct reports.
Be a better manager of people. Don’t let your work interfere with your job.