I saw a fantastic piece about General Stanley McChrystal on 60 Minutes this past weekend. McChrystal is the new commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. He’s absolutely brilliant. He is completely changing the approach to winning the war. He understands that the goal isn’t to beat the Taliban, it’s to free the Afghani people. Understanding that simple thing changes the fundamental approach to fighting and winning the war. Instead of being bullies, he has his troops visit towns and become friendly with the people. He himself visits towns without any armor whatsoever and asks the locals simply “how can we better serve you?”.
Regardless of your thoughts on the war, I think you’ll admire his ability to focus on the customer. He doesn’t hide behind his position – he gets his hands dirty and gets right out in the field and interacts with his customers, the Afghani people.
A lot of CEOs and business owners could learn from General McChrystal. He risks his life to talk to these people. It amazes me how many important people in business hide from their customers. They don’t want to hear what is really important to them. They don’t want to hear the problems that they have. Problems = opportunities, so long as you make the effort to identify and quantify them.
If you’re not routinely asking your customers how you can better serve them, you’re doing both parties a disservice. No number on a spreadsheet can replace actually speaking one on one with a customer.
If you’re interested, I embedded the entire episode below. This story is the first one in the show (I couldn’t find just the story itself to embed).