Many years ago I received one of the best compliments ever from a client: “the best thing you do is you work for us, not your business. You treat our business as if it were your own.”
Back then I was in college, and I was building my IT consulting business. When I heard the compliment it was the first time I had ever thought about what exactly I was doing, beyond solving problems, that made my clients happy. The operating principle by which I was operating was work for your customer not your company.
Before I started my consulting business in college, I worked in FedEx at 18 years old. No one there gave me a big goal to aim for, so I deduced and came up with one on my own to direct my efforts: make sure the customer (the people who hire FedEx to transport packages) gets their package delivered on time, safely and in perfect state.
Everything I did from that point forward was directed towards achieving that goal on a day to day basis. And no, I was not a driver; I worked in the warehouse.
With that said, when you ask your employees to give more of themselves to make the business successful, you should be asking them to obsess about the customer. You are working for them. Your business will be successful if you customer is successful. One drives the other, not the other way around.
For example, great YouTubers work for their viewers to create content that they will enjoy. Great reporters work for their readers to bring them the most accurate information. Great product developers work for their users to help make their life’s easier. Great CEO’s work for their customers, not their shareholders!