February / March is the time for many boards of directors to meet and go over their targets for 2011.  And many of these meetings spill over to congresses with employees and customers alike.  While it is very easy to get caught up in the trap of over emphasizing one’s own importance; it is essential that we allow for opportunities for active listening.  There is an old fashioned notion that ‘the bosses’ have the power and the responsibility to provide the strategy and answers, but in our complex and ever changing world, too many people rely on the few to somehow make sense of it all.

If I learnt anything from being an on the road salesman it was that customers, more often than not, had a completely differing view of the company I worked for than those that ran it.  And although you might think that this is normal, the problem is that over time the sales force tends to agree with their customers, thereby creating a chasm of perception and opportunity.  So if we assume that our sales team is the closest thing we have to our customers then we had better listen to them.

I am routed in the opinion that the business leader that genuinely knows their customers, that understands their needs and their aspirations, is the best person to formulate the strategy.  However, this assumes one thing:  that our customers know where the market is going.  Sadly this is far too often not the case, and they can easily lead the subservient company director down their own path to extinction.

In 2011 there is a sense of urgency required for companies to communicate in a way that brings them in touch with both their customers and employees, not just on a business case level but on a meaningful and personal one too.  And those directors that go about separating themselves from those that make it all happen are the ones that will become out of touch and unable to read accurately the real situation.

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Have a good week,