In our work, Lead With Your Customer, Mark David Jones and I note that there are 5 key universal human needs:
- The need to be heard and understood,
- The need to belong and contribute,
- The need to feel stable and in control,
- The need to feel significant and special, and
- The need to be successful and reach one’s potential
Enormous energy should be spent in helping employees to achieve these outcomes, because when they do, they are in a better place for helping customers do the same. Here’s one example of this:
In a Forbes article, Nancy Ortberg spoke of how her mentor, Max De Pree, former CEO of Herman Miller, engaged his workers. “Max had a rule for his leadership team. Every Wednesday they were to bring a brown-bag lunch and go down to the factory floor, where the furniture was being made, to eat. They were to sit and listen for an hour to get to know the names of the workers on the floor and to learn about the obstacles workers were facing as they did their jobs, as well as to hear about the ideas they had for future designs.”
Nancy Ortberg was at one time an emergency room nurse. One night she witnessed an astonishing leadership act: “It was about 10:30 p.m. The room was a mess. I was finishing up some work on the chart before going home. The doctor with whom I loved working was debriefing a new doctor, who had done a very respectable, competent job, telling him what he’d done well and what he could have done differently.
“Then he put his hand on the young doctor’s shoulder and said, ‘When you finished, did you notice the young man from housekeeping who came in to clean the room?’ There was a completely blank look on the young doctor’s face.
“The older doctor said, ‘His name is Carlos. He’s been here for three years. He does a fabulous job. When he comes in he gets the room turned around fast so that you and I can get our next patients in quickly. His wife’s name is Maria. They have four children.’ Then he named each of the four children and gave each child’s age.
“The older doctor went on to say, ‘He lives in a rented house about three blocks from here, in Santa Ana. They’ve been up from Mexico for about five years. His name is Carlos,’ he repeated. Then he said, ‘Next week I would like you to tell me something about Carlos that I don’t already know. Okay? Now, let’s go check on the rest of the patients.’”
Nancy Ortberg recalls: “I remember standing there writing my nursing notes–stunned–and thinking, I have just witnessed breathtaking leadership.”