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Who Do You Serve?

Having clarity or confusion in answering this simple question will either drive all the right behaviour or leave you waffling in executing your daily mission in life.

Some of you may remember the lyrics of an Grammy award winning song by Bob Dylan.

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Isn’t this the truth? Every one of us has to serve somebody. The question is, who do you serve?


Recently I was asked to conduct a leadership development program for a large, well respected, European firm. While their brand is known for quality, their local facility was struggling to produce that for which they are famous.

I asked a roomful of 34 leaders a very simply question; why do you exist?

I could have easily asked today’s question, who do you serve? Anyway, with little surprise, I received 20 or more different responses… none of which proved to be the correct one. The right answer… their customers. That facility exists to deliver high quality performance and products to their customers, profitably. Short of that, they fail as an organisation.

I now had a far clearer understanding as to why this facility was struggling; they didn’t have a clue as to who they were serving. The management team was extremely busy working, many putting in 12-16 hour days. Yet still they were failing at their basic mission; serving their customers well. How does this happen?

Unfortunately this is not an uncommon story. Organisations and individuals alike often get so caught up in the execution of daily tasks, agendas, etc; achieving their goals, that they quickly forget who they are really serving, and why?

Case in point; many a spouse has forged ahead with the success of their career to provide for their family, causing them to work long hours, and travel many weeks and months of the year. In doing so, they have sacrificed the most precious asset of a family; time spent in the relationship. Often many wake up to the truth a bit too late; only after the divorce or the children move away to university.

So how about you? Do you know who you serve, and why?


The great news is, if you have lost your way with regards to knowing who you serve, and why, there is hope!

Here are some simple points of advice to improve relationships with those you serve.

Know Your Customers. Sounds simple, but few do. Make a quick list of who you believe your customers are, both with your firm and/or your family, internal and external.

Customer Assessment of Your Performance. Make time to have a meaningful conversation with your customers; ask them for their assessment of your performance.

If you are a senior leader at your company, do not pass this off to others. Personally sit down with your top clients and ask them how well are you serving them, with regards to quality, timeliness, attitude, etc.

If you are doing this with your spouse and/or children, set up a special lunch or dinner. Ask them similar questions; how well am I serving you? (With my time, attention, money, etc.)

Prioritise Change. Once your customer or family has given you feedback on what they would like to see changed, do it! Not everything can be changed overnight, and most understand this. Set up a schedule to address outstanding issues prioritised from your customer’s perspective. Meet regularly to communicate the progress of improvements.

If you have not engaged in this type of activity, or it has been a long time since you have, do it immediately. Your business and relationships will thrive!




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