Sex and the Executive Manager

There is an old saying that no one really knows who said first: “Every generation thinks that it has invented sex”.  In other words, everyone learns lessons as they go through life.  The flip side of that truth is that everyone makes stupid decisions when they are young.  (In fact recent research indicates that human brains don’t fully physically mature until about age 30…something that anyone over 30 can attest to.)

The management version of this truth is that every generation of managers has to learn the same lessons that the previous generation did.  I mean, you’d think by now that anyone in a management position would understand that the only opinion about a product offering that’s valid is the customer’s — not management’s, nor any internal group’s.

This was brought home to us on an engagement not too long ago.  A client queried the lead CMG consultant about a customer-facing issue.  Her reply was tactful, of course, but said with a little more of a hard edge it boiled down to: “You seem to have an opinion on this, I might have an opinion, but they are both irrelevant.  The only opinion that matters is your customer’s.  Why don’t you ask them?”

The answer, it seems to me, was the same in this case as it always is: 1) it’s effort to ask customers, and more important, 2) the customer might tell them things they were uncomfortable hearing.

But like it or not, satisfying your customers is the job you are paid to do.


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