The work that we do as customer experience professionals can often be summed up as change management – or change leadership. One of the key and critical parts of this change management effort is to ensure we have executive commitment for the work that lies ahead. As a matter of fact, in an article I wrote a couple months ago about some research that GetFeedback had released, I noted these findings:

Respondents shared what degree executives were invested in CX efforts, how much, and to what end. When executives invest in customer experience, brands are three times more likely to yield return on investment (ROI) than those who don’t have that commitment from executives.

So their commitment is important. (Their ROI will come!) It ensures that you get the resources – human, capital, financial, time, etc. – needed to move forward successfully with your transformation work. They should express commitment (to the CX team and to the company) that the entire executive team is all in and that they’ve accepted that building a customer-centric organization means we’re building a winning organization.

But what if that commitment is lacking? What if you’re executives don’t get it? What if every plea to explain why transforming the culture, the employee experience, and the customer experience lands on deaf ears? What if some get it and some don’t?

Let’s think about this…

Years ago, I had an interesting conversation with James Lawther about executives and their lack of understanding regarding their critical roles in the transformation and the importance of their commitment. He had commented on a post about executives “not getting it” with this: “In which case, rather than trying to change your executive, wouldn’t you be better moving on and changing your executive instead?” I was recently reminded of his comment when I saw the quote, “It’s easier to change people than to change people.”

Perhaps, sometimes we just need new executives. Sadly, those who get it are few and far between. It’s one of the reasons I wrote Built to Win, i.e., to inspire leaders to think differently about customer-centricity and building a winning organization through deliberately designing a customer-centric culture – from the top.

Back to the conversation with James. We weren’t too far off on this thinking, this idea of changing executives. Geoffrey Moore (author of Crossing the Chasm and Zone to Win) published an article on LinkedIn last month titled, Three Easy Mistakes to Make, which he actually referred to as compromises leaders shouldn’t make as the business grows and matures or evolves. One of those mistakes was this: Adjusting your organizational model to fit your people instead of the other way around. He writes:

People who have been with the team for a long time often feel entitled to the next promotion in their career path, and because we have all worked together during this time, we can feel obligated to accommodate them. Now, when your industry is not being disrupted, experience does matter, so promoting from within is often a good strategy. But when disruption strikes, organizations need to change, often dramatically, and the new leaders need to be grounded in the emerging paradigm. That is, they have to make quick decisions with little data based on pattern recognition and then course-correct them as the data comes in. If the person in place does not have that pattern recognition, if instead, they have to learn the new system even as they are in the midst of operating it, decision-making slows down dramatically, and an agile approach becomes impossible. For times like this, you need to bring in someone who already has the mindset needed to play the new hand. You already know that what got you here won’t get you there. Just remember that applies to people as well.

Why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you make sure you’ve got the right people on the bus to ensure success, to ensure that the organizational model (and, of course, in this case, I’m thinking about building out your customer-centric culture) has every chance to flourish? Why would you, instead, keep the same people to build a different organization, especially those who constantly say, “But we’ve always done it this way. This is how we do things here.”

I prefer to say, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Either the thinking has to change or the people have to change.

As Geoffrey says, “For times like this, you need to bring in someone who already has the mindset needed to play the new hand. You already know that what got you here won’t get you there. Just remember that applies to people as well.”

Maybe some of the up-and-coming leaders will bring a fresh perspective and find my open letter to CEOs an affirmation, as in, “No need to tell me all of that once, much less twice!” Be that person with the mindset to play the new hand. Or be the person who gets replaced.

People change over the years, and that changes situations for good and for bad. ~ Bobby Knight

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

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