My first job with any real leadership responsibility was when I was 20 years old. I managed a team of students and a major part of an orientation program for my university.
The first piece of required reading for anyone hired by the team was an article about a pediatric dentist. The story was about the dental practice moving into a new facility and how they handled the design.
When the dentist and his team began considering how they could make their office as friendly as possible for kids, the dentist decided to plan out the design while crawling around on his hands and knees.
Why? On his hands and knees going though each room, he saw what most of his patients would see at eye level.
When he did this, it became painfully apparent how scary most modern dental chairs, furniture, and equipment must have looked to children. Surprised and enlightened by his findings, the office design was completed from the perspective of a small child.
Which would you pick?
I think about this every time I take my son to the dentist. There are two local dentists we considered when selecting one for our kids.
The first dentist had great reviews and a nice medical facility.
The second dentist had great reviews, a nice medical facility, a giant indoor tree, video games in the waiting area, a saltwater fish tank at eye level, screens with a child’s choice of show at every dental chair, stuffed dragons, and the childrens’ names on dry erase board as they walked in.
Guess which one we picked.
See their perspective
I don’t know if either of these dentists knew anything of Dale Carnegie, but they both nailed this principle:
Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
Most leaders and organizations don’t do this. It’s fairly standard practice to think first about the leadership team and the people who work there. What’s best for the customer is a secondary consideration and often only really examined during formal surveys.
Are you willing to get uncomfortable?
I have no doubt that it was challenging for the first dentist to crawl around his entire office and design from that perspective. I took longer, forced everyone to think differently, and was way more uncomfortable than simply putting in the standard furniture and equipment.
Yet, it reaped huge rewards, because he was willing to see things from the customer’s perspective.