Extraordinary Team Blog

Use an Empty Chair at Your Next Meeting

Posted by Kristin Arnold on March 1, 2017

Lots of business leaders like to say, “The customer is always right.”  Or, “We are a customer-centric company.”  But how does that manifest into a daily habit or ritual so that all employees unabashedly KNOW that your company is obsessed with delighting the customer?

Take a page from Jeff Bezo’s playbook.  At Amazon, many meetings have an “empty chair.”

According to a 2012 Fortune article, “Bezos periodically leaves one seat open at a conference table and informs all attendees that they should consider that seat occupied by their customer, ‘the most important person in the room.’”

Now we’re talking!

At any time, you can lean over to that empty chair and ask, “So, do you care?  Would you be willing to pay for this?  Would this make a difference in your buying decision?”  Or, you can simply ask, “Whatcha think?”

And this holds true for other organizations: For associations, the empty chair represents their members.  For government, it represents the citizens.

Try using the empty chair at your next meeting.  It can be your own cultural litmus test:  If people consult the empty chair a few times, you know that you have a customer-focused team.  If they ignore the chair altogether, you might have a bit of work to do!

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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

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