Post-pandemic, many companies are faced with the challenge of ending product or service lines. When they think about which products and services to keep the natural source of information is the income sheet. Did the product or service make money? Transactional. Many times the income sheet gives a clear answer about which products and services to keep and which to get rid of. A clearly wrong answer.

A restorative leader will consult the income statement but before making a decision will ask the stakeholders. A distinguishing characteristic of restorative leadership is that the definition of stakeholder is necessarily fuzzy. Many businesses conduct customer surveys but the definition of stakeholder may extend out much further than the customer. It may include, for example, the end-user, the third-party beneficiary, the customer’s spouse and family, the community the product or service will serve, and on and on.

A restorative leader will listen to the stakeholders empathetically rather than try to convince the stakeholder that they are wrong about something they say. When a restorative leader feels offended or disgusted by a stakeholder, they seek to dig deeper to better understand the stakeholder’s position. This requires creating a safe place for the stakeholder to share. It requires leaders to receive what is shared as a gift. It is a gift — even if the leader didn’t want it — it is a valuable gift.

What restorative leaders often find is that the products or services are fine but the way they are delivered or installed or services needs to be changed. They often find that a small change to a product or service makes it more profitable. They often find that packaging existing products together makes them more profitable. They often find that stakeholders would be more loyal or would recommend products and services more if they simply received a little gratitude. They often find that stakeholders are willing to be partners and allies when they feel heard.

Trying to decide which products to keep? Don’t just ask your customers. Restoratively ask your stakeholders.


Brandon Blankenship
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