As a business owner, leader or CEO, you’re often seen as the guiding force, steering the business towards success with your strategic vision and decision making.
However, a growing trend in the corporate world suggests that for CEOs to truly understand and lead their organisations effectively, they should go back to the roots of their business and experience working in each department.
This immersion into the various areas of business, some of which you may not really have been involved in for some time, can bring significant benefits, not only for you but also for the wider business and vision. There are many positive outcomes to doing this and some well-known companies and their CEOs have successfully embraced this approach.
A Holistic Understanding of the Business
Service based businesses in particular thrive on customer satisfaction and engagement. It’s therefore important to have an in depth understanding of the inner workings of every department that contributes to the customer experience. By undertaking the various customer facing roles you’ll gain first hand insights into the challenges, triumphs, and dynamics of each team.
Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer is known for its exceptional customer service. The company’s former CEO believed so strongly in understanding the customer experience that he spent time on the customer service phone lines, talking to customers and addressing their concerns. This direct interaction not only improved his understanding of the business but also inspired a customer focused culture that became the heart of the business.
Working in different departments nurtures a sense of collaboration that cannot be cultivated solely through meetings. CEOs who have experienced the challenges faced by their teams first hand are more likely to appreciate their efforts and collaborate more effectively. This can lead to improved teamwork, better decision making, and a healthier work environment.
HubSpot, a leading inbound marketing and sales platform, is a great example of a company where CEOs have embraced immersion. Co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan once spent time working at the support desk, directly interacting with customers. This experience allowed him to better understand the challenges faced by his customer support team and paved the way for improved communication within the company.
When CEOs spend time in different departments, they gain a clearer perspective on the company’s operations, bottlenecks, and areas that need improvement. This knowledge can lead to streamlined processes that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. By working alongside different teams, it’s easier to identify areas where technology or process improvements can increase efficiency.
In 2008 the then-CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz temporarily stepped down from his position and returned to his roots by working as a barista in various Starbucks stores. This experience allowed Schultz to reconnect with the core of the business and gain insights into the ground level operations.
Schultz’s immersion led to the implementation of new initiatives, such as revamping the in-store espresso machines and reinventing the company’s approach to customer engagement. This move not only improved the customer experience but also aligned the company more closely with its original vision and values.
Aligning the Business Vision
Immersion can provide a unique opportunity to assess whether the company’s core values and objectives are being effectively communicated and executed throughout the organisation. When CEOs experience the daily challenges and successes, they can make more informed decisions that reflect the company’s overarching goals – as was the case at Starbucks.
CEOs must possess a deep understanding of their business to navigate challenges and seize opportunities successfully. Immersion in different departments fosters collaboration and innovation, resulting in a more cohesive and customer-centric company culture. With examples like Zappos, HubSpot, and Starbucks, it’s evident that CEOs who take the time to go back to their business roots can drive positive change and set their companies on a path to long-term success. As the corporate world continues to change, this practice remains a valuable strategy for CEOs looking to lead with authenticity and excellence.
Is this something you have tried? If not, perhaps it’s time you did!