02 Nov Leadership: At your Service! (Part 1)
Leadership extends oneself, offering humble service and becoming a positive influence. The serving manager attends people with coaching care, inspiring communication, imaginative creativity; cheering them on for a fulfilling finish. It’s also the team leader who appreciates the strengths of the team (and individually) and chooses big-hearted service over ego – doing what is collectively best for the team – pursuing excellence for the company. The trait is simple: service.
Through 25 years of management, I discovered that the most trusted managers with the lonest-lasting employee engagement and loyalty were those who practiced daily serving and unpretentiously influenced others. They were themselves; heart and mind – genuine and transparent, working alongside employees (not over them). It was the continuous reinforcement of relationships that made them shine.
Effective organizational leaders understand the timeliness to hire, set realistic expectations, motivate, and develop their people. A respected manager serves and encourages employees to become the finest (not fixing weaknesses but managing them) by recognizing strengths; where they will best thrive in a position. It’s developing strength maturity that leads employees and teams to peak performance.
Leaders, imagine yourself as a waiter or waitress; asking and listening what employees need. Then serve up an appetizing coaching meal – using your unique strengths to invest in their progress and careers. I understand that managers are accountable for results. Managers may lose perspective when work becomes narrowly focused on high-pitched production quotas, over-promises to clients, radical overnight procedural changes, exceeding company metrical box scores and overly satisfying the stakeholders. The company pay-out shows lasting dividends when managers serve, invest, and develop their people. It really happens.
How does it work?
Here are several suggestions of how managers can authentically serve employees (more serving suggestions will be found in Part 2):
- Right To The Core:appreciate employee core values, passion, purpose and motivational direction. Unite their work process and results with these meaningful individualized human components. Interconnect their ideas, tasks, and results with a relevant purpose and sense of mission; like, improving our communities, homes and/or work conditions around the world. Team dialogues stay aflame – reminding people of their valued responsibilities assimilated in the organizational mission.
- Upright Employee Strengths: leverage fully to thrive in position. Climbing the corporate ladder may not be the objective for many people – it could be pursuing excellence in a specific work role. Stay cognizant (with a wide-ranging view) and play to employee strengths with role, duties and team engagement.
- The Right Stuff: employees need the proper resources to do their jobs correctly and productively. Timely and effective onboarding is a priority to kick start engagement. Employees need office equipment, admin support, efficient workstations, working (up-to-date) computers and printers, intranet/internet tools, HR/ethics/tech security information, an understanding of company culture with branding mission, and positioning personal mentors…to name a few.
Supportive working environments allow the blossoming of strengths and skill sets of employees: workflow initiatives, whiteboard sessions, collaborative channels, strategy planning, goal setting (and follow-up), interdependent team building, approaches to well-being, etc. When generational differences exist, the attentive and open-minded servant leader adapts and makes necessary changes.
- Rightly Encourage: on the floor, around the workstation, in the field, or on the phone (for those remote workers); frequently connecting face-to-face with people. Not micro-managing but personally listening and inspiring fresh ideas. People need people for interaction – connecting emotionally. E-mails and quick time messaging are often impersonal and detached.
- A Rightful Open Door: to be available, accessible, and an advocate with your people – at any time to discuss anything. They know you will make time, be fair and keep conversations confidential.
Leaders enjoy higher team engagement when they serve the best interests of others. According to Gallup, managers who appreciate and utilize employee strengths experience a higher engagement rate, improved productivity and less absenteeism. Does this require time for a manager? Yes, because managing as a servant leader necessitates observation, investment, and inspiration. The servant leader understands that devoted service is helping refine each employee…building on known talents and natural abilities. It’s not changing someone into somebody else but helping people become more of who they already are. When employees flourish, the company benefits.
Celebrate differences – as each employee offers significant diverse views and opinions. It’s healthy when the working climate promotes openness, acceptance, integrity and service to others. Allow employees to zero-in what they do well. Let them expand their work role using their strengths; running strong and allowing independence where they continually make their mark.
A leader who serves their staff with the right support, sincerity, encouragement, care and appreciates each person’s strengths will be respected and trusted – company turnover decreases and allegiance increases. It’s in the people – being the company’s most treasured asset.
Each morning, joyfully open the door, greet your team and simply ask, “at your service…how can I help you today?”
Then be ready to serve!