Stronger Through Adversity | Practice Employee Obsession

Thank you for joining me for this series titled Stronger Through Adversity. The book by the same name is based on conversations I’ve had with more than 140 global leaders as they navigate through COVID-19.

In Stronger Through Adversity, I suggest that practicing employee obsession is an ominous concept since, in its most negative connotation, obsession means a disturbing preoccupation. I go on to write that the leaders I interviewed weren’t advocating disturbing preoccupations with team members. I am, however, using the broader definition of obsession to reflect a compelling motivation.

The word obsession is used frequently in the context of customer experience design and customer care. For example, four main principles guide Amazon:

1. Customer obsession (not competitor focus).

2. Operational excellence.

3. Passion for invention.

4. Long-term thinking.

A quick Google search of the phrase customer obsession produces approximately 49,600,000 results, and related search phrases include “how to measure customer obsession,” “why is customer obsession important,” and “customer obsession and technology.” However, the phrase employee obsession produces about a fifth of the results, and many of those explore how employee engagement contributes to customer obsession.

In Stronger Through Adversity, I talk about how I’ve had a front-row seat as a leadership and customer experience consultant to a raging debate about whether companies should aspire to put the customer or the employee first. As you might guess from Amazon’s guiding principles, Jeff Bezos consistently says, “Put the customer first,” while the founder of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, believes, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Not liking these either/or debates, I favor wording like human-centric or human-obsessed. However, during discussions with leaders throughout the pandemic, I’ve noticed an increased emphasis on the employee experience. Maybe it was from seeing their team members in their home environments or watching employees work tirelessly to help leaders pivot their business in crises. Whatever the reason, the employee experience has been elevated by most leaders during the pandemic.

So let’s bring it back to you. What do you think of the debate between prioritizing team members versus customers? More importantly, how have you enhanced your team member experience, given the challenges of the pandemic?

I would love to hear your answers to those questions and discuss how you drive an improved team member experience in these challenging times. Please reach out to me and we’ll find time for a conversation.

If you would like to learn more about Stronger Through Adversity and get your special signed 40% off pre-order offer, head to

Until next time, may you be Stronger Through Adversity by practicing employee obsession.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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