It’s Time to Face the Music: Making the Leadership Connection with Your Customers


The bigger we get the smaller we have to think. Customers still walk in one at a time. – Sam Walton

A story is told of how many years ago a man conned his way into the orchestra of the emperor of China although he could not play a note. Whenever the group performed, he would hold his flute against his lips, pretending to play but not making a sound. He received a modest salary and enjoyed a comfortable living.

Then one day the emperor requested a solo from each musician. The flutist got nervous. There wasn’t enough time to learn the instrument. He pretended to be sick, but the royal physician wasn’t fooled. On the day of his performance, the imposter took poison and killed himself. The explanation of his suicide led to the phrase that found its way in to the English language: “He refused to face the music.”

Facing the music with your customer is a matter of good leadership. Knowing where you stand with your consumer is paramount to your success. The findings by the 2013 Edelman Barometer of Trust ( indicate that there is a great deal of work to be done. Everyone wants to be a leader and we understand the need for it, but there’s a problem: many consumers don’t trust leaders. According the to report less than a fifth of the general public believes that a business leader can be trusted to tell the truth or make an ethical decision.

Making the leadership connection with your customer is a leadership issue of the highest order. Facing the music is how you begin. Are you taking an honest look and properly assessing your relationship toward your customer in a way that will build trust and credibility? Here are three ways to begin the process.

Be open to the facts. Facing the music may not be a pleasant experience as you assess your current footing but if you are going to build trust with your customers you must be willing to do it. If you are not listening to them then they will go where their voice is heard and valued.

Internally you must analyze your customer relationship in many ways. A great example of how this is being done is found with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and their ‘culture of metrics’ ( approach that keeps all eyes focused on the customer. Amazon tracks its performance against nearly 500 measurable goals, and nearly 80% of those have to do with customer objectives. The first step to making the leadership connection with your customers is to be open to the receiving the facts as they currently exist.

Be willing to change. When you face the music as it relates to your customers and you have an honest assessment of your positioning with them you must then be willing to act. Change works to your advantage only because of what you do with your knowledge. For example, if you have a disgruntled customer then you have a choice. Listen to them, help them, and keep them, or lose them.

Writing for Inc., ( Maria Tabaka says, “Be thankful that your customer is willing to tell you what most won’t. It’s a gift that may offer you insight into problems that other customers aren’t willing to share… It’s a proven fact that when conflict is resolved well, a customer can become an even more devoted fan than they would have if there was never a problem in the first place.” When you empower yourself with the facts and demonstrate a willingness to change in order to meet your customers’ needs then you are on the path to greater success. Embracing this leadership challenge is essential to building the kind of relationships that will sustain you today and into the future.

Be vigilant going forward. The corrections you make today will help you today but the longevity of your success is a matter of vigilance. The needs, desires, and wants of your customers is constantly changing and evolving. Are you prepared to meet the challenges they bring?

A working formula for your vigilance looks like this:

RB (Relational Building) + CK (Customer Knowledge) = MB (Mutual Benefit).

Simply put, making the leadership connection with your customers begins by building relationships and knowing their wants and needs. When these two things become your priority you will not have to worry about your success. It will take care of itself. And it shows good leadership.

Are you prepared to face the music?

© 2013 Doug Dickerson

If you enjoy reading Doug’s leadership insights you will especially enjoy reading his leadership books, Leaders Without Borders & Great Leaders Wanted! Visit his website and order your copies today!

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About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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