Monday, March 19, 2007


Who do you work for?

You don't work for your boss. Sure, she might sign your paychecks. Or recommend your promotion. Or review your performance.

But your boss is actually third on the list of who you work for.

As I see it, you have three bosses (in this order):

1. Your customers
2. Your employees
3. Your boss

Let me briefly explain each.

1. Your customers.
There is no more important audience in your business. Without customers, there is no business. No paycheck. No promotion. So if your customers are that important, how can they NOT be the boss? This prioritization is relatively easy for those who are front-line staff, or get to interact with customers on a regular basis. But for managers who don't interact with customers regularly, keeping sight of what your customers want can be more difficult. Sometimes that means listening to how your boss interprets what customers want, but make no mistake - your customers are calling the shots.

2. Your employees.
If you are in any leadership position, you work for your employees. Your job is to make them as successful as possible, and to clear obstacles to their success. Three reasons for this. First, it's your job as a manager to help your employees succeed, to thrive in their jobs, and to grow in their careers. Second, by helping your employees grow, you're enabling your own growth (since you're preparing some of your employees to take your place). And third, your employees are likely closer to the customer. This means they hear things from your "first boss" often more directly and more frequently than you do.

3. Your boss.
At the end of the day, your boss is still your boss. He or she still has authority to to direct the work you do, and help set priorities for both you and your team. But, your boss works for you (you are her #2 boss), and you're likely closer to the customers (your and her #1 boss).

I think if more of us thought of our customers as calling the shots in our organization (whether you're in a huge corporation, or a business of one), we'd make a number of decisions very differently (or not make some decisions at all).

And if more managers considered their employees a close-second priority, employee satisfaction and productivity would rise.

Will your boss be upset if they find out they're third-fiddle? No way. You're putting your customers first, and empowering your employees to be better employees. What more could a good boss ask for?


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