A lot of businesses bill themselves as “customer-focused” or “customer-centric,” while other companies emphasize their “team-first” approach to leadership. Jim Buie, the president and CEO of Involta, an IT service and consulting firm, thinks an effective leader should be able to compartmentalize the two key stakeholders in any company and serve both.
By asking both groups lots of questions–and then truly listening to the answers. “You have to be able to compartmentalize how important an employee’s experience is, how important that client’s experience is, and the constant roadmaps of how you’re going to make those experiences better,” Buie said in the podcast. “We do town halls for our employees twice a year, we do employee engagement surveys and we listen in as many ways as we can.”
At the same time, Involta uses the advisory boards it has created in its most important verticals to listen to how the company helps customers achieve better business outcomes. That usually means that for every hour of talking Buie does, he listens for 15 or more hours. But he doesn’t just listen, he “actively listens,” which is a different animal, altogether.
Whether he’s asking questions of employees in order to find out how to keep them engaged and or asking clients how they use Involta products and services to be successful, Buie likes to come prepared with a mix of “open-ended” and “probing” questions. “I have found that when you ask open-ended questions, you’re going to hear new things that maybe you weren’t anticipating,” he explained. “And the more you follow those up with some probing questions, the deeper and more nuanced will be your understanding of the topic at hand.”
Buie says that active listening provides the best way he knows as a leader to fulfill his responsibility of aligning and optimizing employee engagement and customer satisfaction–two sides of the same coin of excellence. A former executive at Comcast and AT&T before taking the helm at Involta, Buie is a firm believer in the efficacy of strong corporate cultures to bring out the best in his team. In the podcast, he shares such culture-building lessons as:
- How Involta operationalizes its brand promise of “People Who Deliver” at the team level.
- Why you can’t fake positive team chemistry, and how to build chemistry from the start.
- What Buie learned from legendary Florida Coach Bobby Bowden about the power of humility.
“If you have passion and love doing what you’re doing and think about others ahead of yourself, you create positive energy,” Buie said. “As a corporate leader, I’m always thinking about that person who takes the first phone call from our customer. ‘How hard are we making that job?’ I want to know.”