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...is Job 1
by Rod Johnson

In the 1980s, Ford Motor Company created possibly the most famous corporate slogan of all time. “Quality is Job 1.” It was used extensively in advertising campaigns around the world to convince buyers that Ford was committed to delivering a quality product to its customers, and to remind workers of the importance of this characteristic in the manufacturing process. In many respects, the slogan was highly successful. It was catchy and it conveyed an assumed core competency to the prospective customer. Throughout the 90s, however, the job became increasingly difficult to deliver. Japanese car companies, such as Toyota, Lexus and Honda, were instead receiving the accolades for quality and dependability.

Today, “Quality is Job 1” is all but forgotten within the corporate walls of Ford. In most industries, quality is no longer important – it is expected. Outstanding customer service is no longer important – it is expected. What was outstanding yesterday is deemed acceptable today, and unacceptable tomorrow. In the annals of perception, customer expectations are inflating at an alarming rate.

So what is Job 1?

Could you answer this question? If you answered yes, could you defend your position? If you defended your position, could you and your organization deliver on its promise?

What are some potential answers to this important question?

• A few might say, “Customer Service is Job 1.” After all, it aligns with the message, “The customer is always right.” Yet most customer service experts today would agree, “The customer is not always right.” In fact, many companies “fire” some customers on a regular basis because they are not the right fit. If this is the case, “Customer Service cannot be Job 1.”

• Someone else might say, “Corporate Profits is Job 1.” Yet when you look under the hood, corporate profits are a mere indicator of whether you are doing the right stuff. In essence, it is merely a benchmark of how you compare to other companies, inside and outside your business.

• A handful might say, “Safety is Job 1.” In agriculture, where safety is a constant issue, this might appear relevant. Safety is an important message to convey daily. However, it is questionable whether it deserves Number 1 status.

When I look at the numerous options available, I would say “Leading is Job 1.” I did not say “Leadership.” I specifically said “Leading.” Why? Leadership is a noun, which conveys status. In effect, a person can be in a leadership position and still be an ineffective leader. Leading is a verb, and thereby conveys action. In many organizations, clear, concise and strategic action is the one thing that is too often lacking. You do not become excellent by simply doing the minimum needed to get by. You become excellent and remain excellent by raising your own standards for performance.

What is Leading?

• Leading is about creating clarity for each employee from all the noise they are exposed to on a daily basis.

• Leading provides a roadmap on the journey to winning—winning in the hearts and minds of your suppliers, customers, employees and stakeholders.

• Leading ensures that programs and processes are constantly reviewed and updated so that issues relating to safety, quality and service are never compromised.

• Leading bestows upon every employee a sense that their contribution to the overall vision of the company is important and recognized.

• Leading recognizes that every employee is hired for his or her skills, knowledge and ability to positively contribute to the overall needs and desires of the organization.

• Leading is about building and developing a team spirit and corporate culture.

At the end of the day, there are many reasons to be a poor leader. There are few reasons to remain a poor leader. When you move from a position of being a leader to a stance of leading, greatness may also knock on your door.

Henry Ford once said, “The question ‘Who ought to be boss?’ is like asking ‘Who ought to be the tenor in the quartet?’ Obviously, the man who can sing tenor.” So, too, should leaders be selected. Leaders should be measured on their ability to “lead.”

Do you believe “Leading is Job 1?”

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