Realize Your Team Is Your Customer

Jan 24, 2019

By Scott J. Allen, Ph.D. and and Mitchell Kusy, Ph.D.

"How may I better serve you?”—all of us love to hear this question. Within those six words is a message that you are important and valued. When we don’t feel valued, we may take our business (and careers) somewhere else. When we do feel valued, respected, and cared for as a consumer, we are more likely to go back. Any successful business owner knows this—after all, it is more costly to recruit new customers than it is to retain current ones.

This concept applies to leadership, as well. If you have a team of committed individuals (not simply compliant team members), in all likelihood you have a productive and enthusiastic team. In essence, you are a customer-service agent for those who work for you. You are their main contact with the organization, and if you act in a customer service–oriented manner and create a culture where service to others is the expectation, chances are your team will do the same. Ask your team how you may better serve them and then follow through. This is a two-part endeavor—ask and then follow up. Pretty soon, those team members who are self-aware will be asking you this question. What a gift. This is a simple suggestion that can pay huge dividends for you and your team members.

We suggest that you ask this question in different ways. One leader has used these questions in the name of service delivery and leadership development:

  • Am I providing what you need right now?
  • Am I being an obstacle or a help with this project?
  • How can you best use me here?

Remember, asking the question is not enough. Whenever possible, you must follow through on the suggestions—otherwise, you lose credibility and trust. If you cannot follow through on the request, be sure to say why.

© 2011 Scott J. Allen and Mitchell Kusy. All rights reserved. Adapted with permission of the publisher from The Little Book of Leadership Development: 50 Ways to Bring Out the Leader in Every Employee (AMACOM).

About the Author(s)

Scott J. Allen, Ph.D., is assistant professor of management at John Carroll University and coauthor of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership. Mitchell Kusy, Ph.D., is full professor in the doctoral program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University. He is the coauthor of Toxic Workplace!, Breaking the Code of Silence, Manager’s Desktop Consultant, and Fast Forward Leadership. Allen and Kusy are coauthors of The Little Book of Leadership Development: 50 Ways to Bring Out the Leader in Every Employee (AMACOM).