Tag Archives: Customer Insight Director

Leadership Coaching: Is It For You?

Have you experienced the benefits of leadership coaching? Years ago, U.K. business leaders appeared to just see it as an American business fad (for a culture that has also embraced the benefits of therapists and given us great TV like “In Treatment“). However, over the last decade, more and more U.K. businesses have embraced executive coaching, and the academic evidence for efficacy has grown substantially. Even in 2005, 88% of U.K. organizations reported using coaching and, by 2009, 93% of U.S. organizations.

The next revolution in coaching for businesses is the expansion of coaching to a wider leadership population. Once the preserve of CEOs or main board members, leadership coaching is now being expanded at progressive businesses to include all directors, talent pipeline candidates or, in some cases, the wider organization through team coaching. My personal interest is in the benefits of coaching for the rising stars who are today’s customer insight leaders.

There is a growing trend to create customer insight director or chief knowledge officer roles, often for individuals who have never held C-suite responsibilities. Such leaders are ideal candidates for coaching, not because of any deficits, but rather to ensure that they perform as well as possible and achieve the challenging goals for their new strategic focus.

So, what does coaching entail? Very briefly, the term covers a multitude of approaches and has many possible definitions. But experts now agree that executive coaching can be defined as: “a relationship-based intervention. Its focus is on the enhancement of personal performance at work through behavioral, cognitive and motivational interventions used by the coach, which provide change in the client.”

That more academic definition hints at the fact of multiple models or techniques that can be used, where helpful, to facilitate sessions. The qualification that I’m completing on executive coaching includes learning coaching models: goal-oriented; cognitive behavioral; positive psychology; and neurolinguistic programming. My own experience of coaching executives has taught me that different models can be appropriate at different times, with different clients, in different organizational contexts. The most important skill is still genuine active listening, but frameworks to help guide sessions and clear goals to be achieved do both help.

I’m encouraged by the positive messages being given by a number of organizations with regard to the importance of coaching (see “Coaching at Work” magazine). However, I have not yet seen this commitment applied to the customer insight leadership population. I hope that change will come, and I am focusing part of my business on helping to meet that need.

Have you seen the benefits of coaching or mentoring in your leadership role? I’d love to hear more about your experience of this emerging profession.

Customer Insight: 4 Ways to Sway C-Suite

As more and more customer insight leaders rise in influence within blue chip companies, it seems timely to consider this question: How can they use their insights to influence senior management?

My last search on LinkedIn turned up nearly 50 customer insight directors (CIDs) in the UK (excluding research agencies, where this job title does not have the same seniority) and more than 700 of their American cousins, chief knowledge officers (CKOs), in the U.S. Whether or not you have risen to the seniority of being called a CID, you are, I hope, finding that your executives want to hear from you. So, when you get that call or regular appointment at the top table, what should you do?

Here are four tips I learned through getting it wrong to start with:

Find out what is on their agenda. To start with, don’t try to raise your own agenda topics, based on current work from the customer insight team. Instead, find out what is on their agenda. Bringing extra insight to one of their current dilemmas, a customer perspective that can be acted upon, will increase your influence. This is akin to Stephen Covey’s classic advice to focus on your circle of influence, not your circle of concern.

Bring a regular customer update. Being the voice of the customer at the top table is almost a moral responsibility for any organization’s customer insight leader. However, it’s important to focus on where you can add value to what they know already. I found one approach was to take responsibility for the existing customer metric that they track (whether that be net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction (CSat) or customer effort score (CES)) and then enhance that program to bring a more granular understanding, which enables follow-up actions and evidence of impact. For example, additional questions captured in line with your learning of top concerns from qualitative research, plus analytics about what happens when the experience is changed. If your data and controls are sufficient, you may even be able to evidence retention rate impact from customer experience improvements and, as a result, provide direct financial benefit.

Bring a regular commercial update. While not as expected from customer insight teams, an update on the performance of our targeted leads, direct marketing, etc. helped changed the perception of customer insight to being a commercial team. This was further improved by taking responsibility for measuring marketing effectiveness (with a combination of econometrics and other methods) and by sharing commercial targets. Once the top team realize how much of top line performance and retention impact is actually driven by targeting and insight-led media mix, the demand for updates on these parts of balanced scorecard increases, as does the team’s reputation.

Update jointly with marketing and operations. Most of the CEOs I have known over the years are looking to see the kind of behaviors from their leadership population that give them confidence in their leadership pipeline. One of these is the ability to take a cross-functional view, to not just be concerned with achieving your targets or the reputation of your function, but looking to the good of the whole organization. Updating jointly with marketing and operations and allowing them to take some of your glory is a way to demonstrate this. It focuses, rightly, on what you do with insight and shows your collaborative approach. I recommend taking this risk.

I hope that helps. What have you found helps you have most impact at your top table and get those big business decisions to be increasingly led by customer insight?