Leadership: Confidence, Presence, and Curiosity

Posted by Matthew Thomas

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matthew-thomas-2.jpgAs leaders, we have a lot on our minds all the time. We have a lot to do, and often the thing we are most concerned about isn't the thing we are doing now. I mean, who hasn't had meetings back-to-back where our focus ends up being on the second (or third) meeting rather than on the one we're in?


The problem is that when we are focused on the next thing, we're not really present to those who are with us right then. There are, of course, many ways to be absent, or semi-absent, from those we are physically proximate to - like checking our smartphone, our watch (or even smart watch), staring out the window, watching a television, and so on. At least for me, though, all of that pales in comparison to what's going on in my own head. I can think about three things at once between someone's sentences.


Like what you're reading? Subscribe Now! Most of us want to be more present to those we lead, and more present to those we care about. The trick is, once we notice we are being absent or semi-absent, we often start thinking about how we're absent, rather than jumping back to presence. It's kind of like the "don't think about a big, juicy hamburger" experiment. Who among us didn't just think of a big, juicy hamburger when we read that?


So what to do?


At the suggestion of my colleague and Executive Coach Phil Bergey, I have begun practicing curiosity on purpose. And I've found that it really helps as a self-check for how present I am to those I am conversing with. Here's the idea: if I'm so absorbed in what's running through my own head that I can't find anything about the person in front of me that makes me curious, then I'm not really present, or not really listening, or really just don't care.


Some of this could be because I'm too busy talking to hear what the other person is saying - or so ready with my next line that I can't hear theirs. Some of this comes down to the natural insecurity of all conversations - will we be understood? What will their response be? Can I accomplish what I came here for? This is all especially true when there is a power imbalance: a leader, a subordinate, a sales/customer conversation, and so on. For me to be really present, the natural insecurity must give way to the confidence that comes from being able to ask something new.


(Related: The story we tell with cost and value.


When my curiosity is really running, I'm listening for what the other person is saying, and seeing what genuinely sparks - not just what's on a script. It's led to some really interesting and fruitful conversations. I'm a naturally curious person: I like learning. Curiosity helps me learn who people are, what they need, and how they might need it delivered. This helps me for client-orientation in business, and helps as I build friendships and strengthen family ties.


What about you? 


How can we help?   Connect with Matt Thomas!

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Topics: client centered, Matthew Thomas

Steward Leaders: [Designing A Business] Client-Centeredness

Posted by Matthew Thomas

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matthew-thomas-2.jpgAs leaders who want to "Do Good while Doing Well," we care how the people around us feel, and we care about what they think. Whether employees, constituents, clients, customers, funders, or even the general public, people, and the impacts we have on communities of people, are important to us. Doing this implies a certain level of client- (or customer-, or constituent-, or member-) centeredness.

I can relate. I'm building my personal brand around client-centeredness. Our firm as a whole focuses on helping organizations and their leaders - which is inherently a client-centered position.

It's sometimes difficult to keep this focus, isn't it? And honestly, some of our best business advice, if taken to an extreme, pushes us off client-centeredness to a different orientation, for instance:

  • Focus on what you do well;
  • Keep overhead low;
  • Protect your intellectual property;
  • Help your clients/customers/constituents discover what they really need (even if they don't know they need it yet).

Like what you're reading? Subscribe Now! All of these things are good things. And, taken together, they are the hallmarks of good business. But unless client-centeredness is not just the "what" of our business, but also the "why," these good things can become very self-serving:

  • Focusing on what you do well can a focus on ourselves;
  • Keeping overhead low can become either cheap on the customer side or abusive on the employee side;
  • Protection of our property can make us grasping, militant, or litigious;
  • Helping people surface unknown or unrealized needs can cause customers to waste resources on trifles rather than truly gain value.

The "why" reminds us that we are client-centered not just because it's what we do, "we serve customers," but because the client (or customer or constituent, etc.) really matters. They become, at some level, the reason we exist. We are stewards of others' resources - not the least of which is customer trust.

(Related: The Story We Tell with Cost and Value)

When designing our businesses, we have choices as to where we start. We start with an idea; we start with a customer; we start with a product; we start with a value proposition; we start with an activity. Client-centeredness means that no matter what our starting point, at some stage of our business development we take a clear-eyed look at our business model and business plan and orient ourselves to the customer/client segments we have identified, and then build for them - not just to them. We build the kinds of relationships they need. We communicate and deliver value along channels they prefer, and we tailor our value propositions to their most essential jobs, desired gains, and most grievous pains.

Recently, I've been using a tool called the Business Model Canvas to help leaders think through their overall business design. (Don't worry, it's incredibly helpful for non-profits and other non-traditional organizational types as well!) It's not a tool we have designed ourselves - but we know a good one when we see it. Check it out here.

Once you've had a chance to sit and look at it, let's talk about how we could use it to assess and design client-centeredness in your business or organization.  Feel free to call me (toll-free) at 1.877.771.3330 x20, or e-mail me . I'd be glad to help you find simple, clear approaches to increasing your client-centeredness.


In service,


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Topics: client centered, business plan, steward leadership, business design, business model, business models