A focus on the big “L” in Thought Leadership

We’re continuing our blog series on Thought Leadership in today’s post, with a focus on the “Leadership” aspect of it!   We recently sat down to chat with Anne Miner, Founder and President of The Dunvegan Group, a full service marketing research firm, and long-time dedicated TMSA Member.  

Here’s a Q&A of what she shared with us:

The attribute of “openness” seems to be a common theme among other thought leaders we’ve been talking to.  What’s your perspective on this? 

Certainly, a willingness to be open-minded is critical for a leader.  But I would take it a step further and say that great leaders are good at exercising best practices that are already known while at the same time, looking for even better ways.

Being in a constant state of brainstorming or ideation – ie. being too open all the time -  is simply not realistic; you’d never get anything done!  Recognize that there is a time for unbridled ideation without judgement, but then as a leader, help your team move into evaluation and evidence-gathering stages to take an idea to the next level. 

Do you have an example from The Dunvegan Group, about exercising best practices that evolved into a ‘better way’?

Absolutely!  But first, let me emphasize that our company works in the B2B space, serving companies that provide managed services, products or professional services to other companies. For many years, we tried to predict customer retention by using zero to 10 rating scales to measure likelihood of recommendation as well as customer satisfaction.

We observed that a rating of “10 – Very Likely to Recommend {company}”, it was not a strong indicator that the customer would stay with them.  Likewise, a rating of “0 – Extremely Unlikely to Recommend”, was not a strong indicator that customers would actually leave.  The same observation applied when we used satisfaction ratings of zero to 10.

We set out to find a better way; an approach that would give us greater accuracy in predicting a customer’s likelihood to renew their contract or continue doing business with our client’s company.   Let me be clear:  our goal was never to discredit other approaches (e.g., Net Promoter model), but rather to build on it with what we already knew.

As a result of our research, we now use a measurement model for clients in the B2B sector, based on three aspects:  perceptions of service excellence, tolerance for poor service, and perceptions of the competitive alternatives.  Today, all of our proprietary measures are founded on this three-dimensional service model … and none of our proprietary measures use 10-point rating scales.

Finding new ways to do things, in this particular case, is something that has helped The Dunvegan Group emerge as a leader.  When you think of the term “Thought Leader”, what comes to mind?

When I break down the term “Thought Leader”, I think of:

  • Thought as a way of ‘working your brain’ to create an idea, develop a concept or solve an issue. 
  • Leadership is about influencing others to pursue a common goal.   
  • When the two come together, you’ve got not only the idea but also the collective force of multiple individuals to evaluate, fulfill and execute the idea.

What’s different about today’s modern leaders, compared to those of say, 20 years ago?
In former models of leadership, the leader was all powerful and expected to have the answers to everything.   Today, successful leaders leverage the collective input of their customers and teams, and make informed decisions based on what they learn. They readily admit they don’t have all the answers, and look beyond themselves to problem solve.

Leadership today really involves the ability to influence other people, as well as a high tolerance and respect for diversity of thought.  Great leaders realize that it is not the single contribution of one brain, but rather the collective molding of an idea by many brains, that produces the best possible outcome.

As a leader who runs a business, what’s the most radical idea you’ve given to a customer?
I have told many of my clients this: Fire a customer who doesn’t fit with what you have to offer.  These customers rob an organization of the good will and good intentions of employees, demanding that they be served.  If they want pizza, and you’re a burger joint, then the pizza lovers simply don’t belong with you!

In closing, can you share a piece of advice for a marketer and leader? 
To get the best possible performance from your efforts, find ways to get people out of siloes.  Whether it’s your management team, your employees or your customers, get them interacting with each other, and create a free and safe environment for them to make mistakes without judgement. Great things will come from that.

TMSA invites you to learn more about Thought Leadership marketing by ordering:
Webinar: How To Launch A Thought Leadership Campaign in 90 Days 
E-Book: The Ultimate Launch Kit for a Thought Leadership Program 

This blog post is the fourth in a Thought Leadership series brought to you exclusively by the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association (TMSAtoday.org) 

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