Every time I join a new business, there are a number of things I insist on doing. Meeting key stakeholders is one. Finding and befriending the PAs is another (they are often among the most influential people in an organisation). Learning how the business works is another. These things might seem pretty simple, and indeed obvious. You are not wrong. However, it never ceases to amaze me how little people really know about the organisation they work for. It is remarkable how little colleagues APPRECIATE each other. Why we should understand and appreciate what everyone does in the organisations we work for is the subject of this blog.

Let me use an example to explain what I mean. Last year, I watched an episode of ‘undercover boss’ – a TV programme on Channel 4 in the UK where senior business leaders go ‘under cover’ to really understand what is happening in their businesses. The fact that a senior leader has to go ‘under cover’ to find out what is really going on is pretty shocking in its own right. The episode I watched was really rather embarrassing – both for the leader in question, and for the company he represents.

Kevin McCullough (pictured below) is (at least I think he still is) COO or NPower – one of the UKs huge energy companies. Kevin went under cover in one of NPower’s contact centres to see what was going on, and what customers thought of his business. Kevin also saw for the first time (at least it looked like the first time), what it is like to be an employee of NPower.

Now call me cynical (among other things), but I find it pretty remarkable that it looked as though the man responsible for NPower’s contact centres appeared to be walking in to one for the first time. I also find it amazing that no one had any idea who he was. It was incredible to see how surprised he was to find out what his customers thought of his company. But perhaps the saddest thing that I witnessed is how hard he thought it was to do the job of an NPower customer service agent. It is obvious that he had never appreciated any of these things before.

Mr McCullough is not the only senior leader to be guilty of failing to appreciate what his colleagues in the business do – what they go through every day – the amount of effort they put in – what they have to face. At least he had the courage to go on national TV to figure it out. It is also not only people at Mr McCullough’s level that fail to appreciate what colleagues from other parts of the business do.

Unfortunately, many businesses operate in silos. Business functions operate largely independently of other functions in the business. They are often measured differently and work towards different goals. It is in businesses like this that it is common for functions to have no appreciation of each other. Businesses like this are very unlikely to offer their customers a seamless customer journey. Where a customer journey is delivered by multiple functions, if each one does not understand and appreciate the other, how can they possible expect the poor old customer to get what they want?

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of being a judge at the Customer Service Training Awards. One of the entries I judged was from Pizza Hut. It is not the merits of their submission that I want to reference. What I want to share with you is the behaviour of their UK Managing Director – a gentleman called Jens Hofma (pictured below). Jens was the only Managing Director that accompanied his team that day. Jens is also a rare example of a senior leader who genuinely appreciates what his team does. The question is why?

The answer………..Jens is a leader who puts himself in his people’s shoes – on a weekly basis. Work commitments permitting, Jens works as a waiter in his Oxford Street restaurant once a week. Not only does this enable Jens to see and speak to customers, it allows him to see and speak to his staff, and observe his product in action. When Jens visits other restaurants and speaks to members of his team, he speaks with a complete appreciation of what is going on in his business. There is also little chance of Jens walking into one of his restaurants and staff not knowing who he is. I think he is a wonderful example to others.

But as I have already said, appreciating what colleagues within an organisation do is not just something that senior leaders should have. I have worked in and with businesses where different functions just do not communicate with each other. I have worked in businesses where sales and marketing teams have never set foot in a contact centre. They have no appreciation of the amazing work their colleagues do in resolving their customers problems. Likewise, I have rarely seen contact centre teams going out on the road with the sales force – meeting actual customers face to face for the first time. It is not uncommon for those poor men and women who work in warehouses to never have seen someone from head office – it is amazing how products get to customers by magic (said with tongue in cheek). Many nationwide organisations have offices and sites in far-flung corners of the country. I pity those who are the furthest distance from head office. I remember going to a contact centre in Sunderland once (the North East of England for those of you who do not know) – one woman told me I did not need to say anything. When I asked why, she said that just being there was enough.

Knowing and appreciating what everyone does in the business that you work for is extremely important. It is important so you have a clear understanding of how your business works. It is also extremely important that you understand what your colleagues do and how they do it. It will make you think before you make a decision, or commit to doing something. It will allow you to understand the effect those decisions might have on others. It will enable you to work effectively with your colleagues and deliver a consistent customer experience.

So ask yourself the following questions:

  1.  Do you appreciate what other people in your organisation do?
  2. Do you know what they do?
  3. Have you ever seen or experienced what they do?

If you have answered no to any of the questions, I implore you to do something about it. It is not difficult. You do not necessarily have to go to the lengths that Jens has at Pizza Hut. But do make the time to go and visit colleagues in other parts of the business. Not only will it help you appreciate your colleagues more, they will be so grateful for you taking the time to do it.

As always, I encourage and welcome you to respond to any of my blogs.