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Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridges department stores in London, is believed to have coined the phrase “the customer is always right”. Businesses that follow the adage are likely looking to convince clients and customers they will get great service and to persuade employees to do a good job with customers.1 However, when the customer comes before the employee, customer service is probably going to decline.
The mindset of believing the customer is always right can be challenging to overcome, especially for leaders who subscribe to the command and control methods of the past. Today’s workers expect more.
They expect to be supported when someone has a complaint, instead of the verdict blindly going in favour of the customer.
Sometimes, no matter how you look at a situation, a customer isn’t good for business. People who are constantly disgruntled, rude and angry will wear down anyone’s patience and potentially their health and wellbeing. Cutting out toxic people may have a tiny impact on the bottom line, but it will exponentially improve conditions for your employees.
You don’t want an unhappy staff. Research has shown happiness can increase productivity. One study found that subjects whose happiness levels were increased were 12% more productive.2 Understanding how happiness plays a role in the workplace can ultimately increase profits.
In a world where money is no longer the primary motivating factor for employees, focusing on the employee experience is the most promising competitive advantage that organisations can create.
We always tend to put some kind of goal on happiness. Think of it as ‘you’ll be happy if’, meaning you’ll be happy if you get the promotion, or if you lose ten pounds or if your partner helps tidy the home. However, when we equate happiness with events that are frequently outside of our control, the results are usually disappointing and unpredictable.
Instead of focusing on success, we should cultivate a positive mindset. In an amusing TEDx talk, Shawn Achor spoke about how the brain changes what success looks like. When we get a good job, we need a better job. We have a fancy vehicle, we need a fancier one.
Just like a coin, if happiness is one side and success is other, we’ll never be able to have both at the same time. Achor found that there are ways to train the brain to be more positive by rewiring the connections in your mind.
Neuroscience has made great strides in the study of brain plasticity, or this ability to rewire and form new connections. We can stop scanning the world for negatives and the ‘if onlys’ and instead seek out the positives that were likely there all along.3
When employees are miserable and demoralised because their company caters to the whims of customers and clients--no matter how unreasonable--customer service will decline for everyone else. To increase performance (and profits), we should focus on having happy employees.
According to Leadership is Upside Down, people who exhibit high performance generally feel happy about life, they care take of their mind, body and spirit, and they usually make good decisions.4 Wouldn’t you rather have leaders and employees with this mindset?
Leaders who want to make real changes should consider:
The issues facing many employees can’t be addressed and solved overnight. However, you can make immediate changes that build on one another, growing your organisation and improving productivity and performance.
The customer isn’t always right, and when you support your employees, you will increase happiness and vastly improve the atmosphere in your office.
1. Kjerulf A. Top 5 Reasons Why “The Customer is Always Right” is Wrong. The Chief Happiness Officer Blog. 2008.
2. Oswald AJ, Proto E, Sgroi D. Happiness and productivity. Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). 2009; IZA Discussion Papers, No. 4645.
3. Achor S. Positive Intelligence. Harvard Business Review. 2012.
4. Damiano S, Cubeiro JC, de Haas T. Leadership is Upside Down: The i4 Neuroleader Revolution. About my Brain Institute. 2014.
Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute
Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.
Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.
Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership
In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.
Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.
Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.