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The final stage is the idea of being a servant leader, or a coach, instead of being a manager — you manage to-do lists and processes, but not people. (This idea comes from James C. Hunter’s book The Servant.)
If someone asked you who you report to at your job, the majority of the time you would say you’d report to your boss. But isn’t the customer the one we serve now? One of the largest drivers of business is customer experience and support; if that is the case, why are we trying to serve our bosses?
When we work in a hierarchical structure, we tend to look up towards our bosses and upper-level management, when in fact we should be looking toward the customer. We have the entire system upside down. As a leader, it should be my job to help my associates serve the customer better. How do we accomplish this?
We do it by removing barriers facing our employees, showing empathy in our leadership style, being committed, selfless, willing to sacrifice our own wants and needs and, most importantly, by being an incredible listener.
In the previous articles have covered the majority of these traits — the last one I want to touch on is how to remove barriers facing employees. As a servant leader, it is my job to remove those barriers so that my associates can run as fast as they possibly can.
Imagine your associates are charging full speed at concrete walls. You have the choice to let them run into it, fall down, get up, and start running again, wasting an incredible amount of time and most likely causing significant damage. Conversely, you can run right next to them, playing the role of the Hulk. Before they hit the wall, you destroy it. That is what it is like to be a servant leader. Without any stumbling blocks, your associates continue to sprint ahead.
Far too often, managers spend their entire career getting in the way, instead of removing obstacles. It is frustrating for employees, and it will cause unwanted turnover. So how do you discern what constitutes a barrier? It’s often the difference between a need and a desire.
As Hunter explains, a desire is a wish or a craving without considering the consequences — a need is a real requirement for well-being. Desires are flimsy, while needs are absolute. Imagine a child who wants candy versus a child who needs food. A leader should always be concerned with the needs rather than the wants.
Of course, needs and wants are not as easy to discern as the example above. I once had an associate who was underperforming and whose emotional state didn’t seem right. We addressed it in a feedback session and I found out they had this one particular fitness class they never got to attend because it fell during our Tuesday morning training. The fitness class was something that had helped center them week after week. At first glance this seems like a desire, but in fact it was an actual need. We made adjustments to allow them to attend the class, and their performance shot through the roof, eventually culminating in making President’s Club and achieving over 200% of plan for the year.
A servant leader needs to be flexible with each of the people they lead. Each person is going to have different needs. A 20-year veteran will have different needs than someone who just started — it is up to the leader to change their style and make adjustments depending on who they are leading.
January 2, 2019 at 07:11AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs