“Take a moment to analyze what really excites your closest associate at work. Then write down what you think are his or her five biggest professional priorities. Then ask this associate to write down his or her own priority list. I’d be amazed if the two lists had three items in common.
“A more basic, and potentially scarier, version of this experiment: List the five items you think each of your subordinates is working on. Then compare with your subordinates’ versions. Again, I doubt if the lists come close to matching.”
A while back I heard of a survey taken by a Fortune 500 company in which employees were asked to name the most important thing they wanted from their jobs. Then managers and owners were asked what they thought the employees’ answers would be.
It turned out that employees desired respect. Owners and managers thought the answer would be wages.
TAKE A SURVEYWrite down what you think are the five important reasons why employees work at your company. Then ask your employees or coworkers to write down their top five reasons. Do you think you would agree on all five?
It might be just as important to take time to conduct a similar survey with your customers. Ask them the top five reasons they do business with you, and write down what you believe are the top five reasons.
If your answers match three or less of theirs, maybe it is time to reevaluate your relationship with the customer. You need to know if you are on the same page.
If mailing a survey is too time consuming, try attaching the five questions to a follow-up checklist that you leave with each customer. Another idea would be to post a survey on your website.
ACTING ON THE ANSWERSIf you match on all five answers, don’t rest on your laurels. If you know you are doing something right, discuss the answers with your employees and customers. Applaud them for being on the same page with you. And while you’re at it, pat yourself on the back, too.
If your answers don’t jibe with your employees’ and customers’, figure out what you can do to bring your thought processes closer. Put yourself in the other’s shoes. For example, an employee might think that recognition for their work is a top priority, while you don’t even recognize that as a concern. Now you know that in order to keep that employee happy, you need to recognize his or her efforts. Take an employee to lunch or put a thank you in his or her paycheck. A little gesture can mean a lot.
If your customer thinks that communication is an important part of a relationship and you don’t recognize that, take time to plan regular “chats” with them via a phone call, e-mail, or newsletter. This planning could help you forecast your future relationships with customers.
Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
Publication date: 09/23/2002