What Jerry Maguire Can Teach You About CX

Football Stadium

Happy National CX Day!

As CX Day winds down, I am reminded of a recent conversation with our CEO during a “coffee talk” – our version of informal town hall/all hands meetings.  Since the CX function is fairly new, I was invited to explain some basics about CX, as well as the work we’re doing here to serve our customers.

Our discussion focused on two pillars of CX: Empathy and Design.

  • Empathy: deeply understanding the customer, the job they want us to do, and the drivers that created that need.  Walking a mile in their shoes, watching them in their native environment, and really understanding what makes them tick.
  • Design: using that understanding of customers to design a product or service from the customer’s perspective – aka “outside-in” – that is so much better they can’t imagine going back to the old way.

And I like to have fun with meetings like this, so I went a little off script.  I think our CEO was a little surprised when I asked the crowd to guess which of their favorite lines from the movie Jerry Maguire might pertain to the discipline of customer experience… : )

  • First answer from the crowd was (of course) “show me the money.”  (not exactly)
  • Next answer: “you had me at hello.” (ok you’re in the right ballpark)
  • Next answer “you complete me.” (that’s actually not bad!)

I paused and looked at the CEO, asking him “Why are we talking about Jerry Maguire?”

CEO: “I can’t wait to find out” (he’s very quick on his feet).

There’s a moment early on in the movie where Jerry (a sports agent) is desperately calling his current clients (pro athletes) to convince them to stay with him.  He has a notable NFL star, Rod Tidwell, on the line when he says something like:

I will not rest until I have you holding a Coke, wearing your own shoe, playing a video game *featuring you*, while singing your own song in a new commercial, *starring you*, broadcast during the Superbowl, in a game that you are winning, and I will not *sleep* until that happens. 

I see great examples of both a) empathy and b) outside-in design:

Empathy: Jerry has understood his customer’s emotional drivers (a massive ego, a desire to build his fame & notoriety… and the need to provide for family under his roof).   And he has understood the important need he’s being asked to solve: “optimize the monetization of my athletic skill!”.   (ok, yes, I actually mean “show me the money.”)

Outside-In Design: The customer couldn’t be more at the center of Jerry’s proposed design.  It’s all about Rod Tidwell.  In ~50 words Jerry clearly visualizes the future state of his customer’s experience – from the Rod’s perspective.   Because it’s all about Rod Tidwell.

There you have it folks: Empathy and Design, courtesy of Jerry Maguire.

CX leaders: What are some fun ways you use illustrations, analogy, or metaphor to help explain CX to team members and employees in your organizations?


Build Leadership Like Infrastructure… Cuz It IS Infrastructure.

At a recent dinner w/some execs from my co we got into a discussion about leadership development.   The most senior guy at the table said that leadership development should be allowed to happen organically within the company, without any structured approach.  As he told his story, we learned that he happened to get a good mentor early in his career who taught him how to be very effective.  Based on his experience, he concluded that it should happen that way for everyone else.

I violently disagreed: Assuming you believe that leadership capability is the single most critical priority for your company, then why rely on an anomaly that coincidentally aligns high-potential leaders with seasoned, effective coaches?  Rather than rely on luck or coincidence, I believe that great companies proactively align high potential leaders with the people who can accelerate their development – deliberately, repeatedly, and consistently.     Why not systematically build your leadership infrastructure the same way you plan & build your IT infrastructure?

At a minimum, you should be doing these things if you want to build a sustainable leadership infrastructure:

  • Don’t rely on anyone else to do this for you!   Many people have great HR organizations that connect your teams to quality leadership training.  This is good and you should partner with them.   But you should not wait on them.  You own the development of leadership within your team, not HR.
  • Conduct a recurring talent assessment: 1-2 times per year, conduct a formal evaluation of the performance and “promotability” of your top leadership level.  Then tell them where they stand v. their peers, and the specific areas you need them to develop.
  • Codify your own leadership processes, methods, & competencies.  Put what you know in writing so that you can effectively teach it to your teams.  By doing this, you will set clear expectations about their leadership “how.”
  • Develop your top leaders: Periodically you must take your teams away from the day-to-day operations, shut off the laptops, and actually teach your own team the leadership capabilities that you expect out of them.  (If you are reading this & thinking “but what would I teach them”… then you have a different problem.)

Bottom line: Approach “leadership development” systematically just like you do with every other part of your infrastructure.  

Is There A Shark In Your Boat?

Just read the fascinating story of a great white shark jumping into Mossel Bay Research Lab’s research boat.   Read it here, it’s short and amazing.

Ever had a shark in your boat?  Sometimes it’s obvious: they are thrashing around (lots of unproductive activity), snapping their teeth, severing critical relationships and impairing your team.  Act immediately, no question.  But what about the more subtle yet equally dangerous behaviors you may be missing?  Here are a few signs you might have a shark-in-hiding.  Do you have someone on your team who:

  • Always waits to be told what to do?
  • Believes they are irreplaceable because of their knowledge?
  • Talks about courage but doesn’t demonstrate it?
  • Is consistently influenced by others… but rarely exerts influence themselves?
  • Doesn’t have strong convictions, is too easy going ( “whatever works for the team is cool with me.”)?
  • Has an “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality?

Then you may have a shark in your boat.  Learn from the Mossel Bay’s Ocean Research team:

Protect your own team & boat.  Their first action was to isolate the shark from the rest of the team so that it wouldn’t injure anyone while thrashing around on the boat.  In your case, you may need to re-assign some duties, or otherwise de-scope the role of your shark.

Get help if you need it.   The shark cut the Ocean Research boat’s fuel lines, rendering them immobile.  And they lacked the water supply to keep the shark alive while they tried to help it.  In your case, you may need to get assistance from your boss, HR, or other coaching resources who are skilled to help your shark.

Teach him new skills.  Mossel Bay’s shark was so confused that when they put it back in the shallow water it didn’t know how to swim or where to go.  One of the researchers “walked the shark” in the shallows to help it re-orient and get moving in the right direction.  In most situations it’s appropriate to try to help coach the person up before you consider any other paths.

Set your shark free.  “Walking the shark” didn’t work for Mossel Bay…  so ultimately they devised a different way to take him back out to deep waters, eventually releasing him to go on his way.  In your case, this shouldn’t be your first step, but it’s one you cannot shy away from when it is required.

Bottom line:  Not all sharks are obvious.  You need to candidly assess your team, and deal with any lurking sharks before they do irreparable damage to your team, your area of responsibility, or your company!

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