5 Ways to Demonstrate Purposeful Leadership

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Your customer experience is driven by a myriad of actions that are taken by employees across your organization. If a customer is unhappy with her first month’s bill, for instance, the issue could be rooted in IT, marketing, product management, or finance activities. The only way to deliver a consistently good customer experience is to make sure that all of your employees are aligned in their direction and priorities.

That’s where purpose comes in.

Employees must have a shared picture of where they’re headed. Any ambiguity or inconsistency is magnified when it is communicated across an organization. Without a common purpose, employees look like little kids playing soccer, a chaotic scene of bodies scurrying randomly around the field.

When people have a strong sense of purpose, it inspires them to try their hardest; energizes them with a sense of hope; uplifts them to feel good about themselves; and connects them with others around a shared goal.

Unfortunately, companies tend to make decisions based on many small, isolated factors—department-specific metrics, or a particular executive’s agenda—rather than on an overarching, cohesive vision of the organization. To keep everyone moving in tandem, a company must articulate and commit to a clear purpose—one that aligns all employees’ day-to-day decisions and is more compelling than simply increased profits.

That’s why “Purposeful Leadership” is one of Temkin Group’s four customer experience competencies. When leaders follow a clear set of values, everyone in the organization can anticipate their decisions. As a result, people know where they’re headed, and they feel more confident and empowered.

To master Purposeful Leadership, leaders must demonstrate Temkin Group’s Five Ps of Purposeful Leadership:

Be passionate. Leaders who aren’t energized by the company’s future can’t expect their employees, partners, or customers to be passionate about helping them get there. What do passionate leaders look like? Here’s part of a note from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to all employees about the change he saw ahead for Microsoft: “At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

Be persuasive. Purposeful leaders don’t just bark orders about what things need to be done and how they expect people to do them. Instead they take the time to make sure that everyone understands why the organization needs to do something. In the book Start With Why, Simon Sinek writes, “All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have clarity of WHY; an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves.”

Be positive. Temkin Group research found that employees who regularly receive positive feedback from their boss are three times more likely than other employees to do something unexpectedly good for the company and are three times more likely to make recommendations for improvements. This insight into human nature has led to the development of a technique called “Appreciative Inquiry,” which changes mind-sets and behaviors by asking people to share thoughts about what they feel is working well.

Be propelling. In a large organization, a leader’s actions make up only a tiny fraction of the total number of actions taken across the company. As leaders individually represent such a small percentage of the organization’s overall activity, whether they succeed or fail is not determined by what they personally do, but by how effectively they influence the actions of other people. That’s why purposeful leaders support, empower, and coach the employees who work with and for them.

Finally, be persistent. A leader’s words are meaningful only if they align with his actions: If a leader says that something is important but then behaves in a way that contradicts that statement, the organization will stop believing him. For example, if a CEO claims that customer experience is critical to the success of her company but then never makes it a topic at any of her staff meetings, no one will actually believe that CX is important to the organization. Senator Corey Booker once said, “My mom told me that what you do speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you say.” The bottom line: Purposeful leaders can’t fake it.

Bruce Temkin is customer experience transformist and managing partner of Temkin Group, a research and consultancy firm focused on enterprise-wide customer experience transformation. He is also the chair and cofounder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org) and author of the blog Customer Experience Matters.

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