Archives For Servant leadership

Serve Well Then Lead Well

November 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

Happy Diverse Business GroupLast week’s post/cast outlined the foundation of effective service and leadership – living well, being of positive physical well-being.

If I have inspired you to take steps (literally and figuratively) to boost your physical health, let’s look at the second step: serve well.

Serving others is the foundation of citizenship in our families, workplaces, and communities. The call to service is also found in nearly every one of the world’s religions.

I define servant leadership as a person’s dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work, and in their community.

What if you are not a formal leader in your family, workplace, or community today? Please don’t let the terminology “servant leadership” dissuade you from embracing the philosophy and practices of servant leadership.

Anyone can serve – and lead – from any position or role in a family, workplace, or community.

What is the philosophy of servant leadership? One must understand and embrace the philosophy before their daily plans, decisions, and actions can be consistently aligned to that philosophy.

Servant leaders believe:

  • Every person has value and deserves civility, trust, and respect.
  • People can accomplish much when inspired by a purpose beyond themselves.
  • It is their role and responsibility is to enable others to bring their best to every moment and every interaction.

What are the practices of servant leaders? Servant leaders typically:

  • Clarify and reinforce the need for service to others. They educate others by their words and actions. They help create a clearer understanding of the greater purpose of serving others. They pose questions to help those around them consider how to set aside self-serving behaviors and embrace servant leadership behaviors.
  • Listen intently and observe closely. They understand that, in order to inspire the best in others, they must understand the world others live in. They do not assume things about others, nor do they judge others. Over time they learn about their players’ unique worldview and opportunities to serve by listening more than talking, observing more than preaching.
  • Act as selfless mentors. They are not looking for credit! They are looking to boost traction in others’ efforts to better serve. Their interactions and communications are designed to boost others’ servant philosophy and others’ servant skills.
  • Demonstrate persistence. They understand that a conversation or two may not change a player’s mindset or assumptions. They are lovingly tenacious; they invest hours in conversations over months to help educate and, hopefully, inspire servant leadership practices in others.
  • Lovingly hold themselves and others accountable for their commitments. Servant leaders are human; they’ll make mistakes. They know the players they are working with will make mistakes. And, they push for high standards of performance and service quality by everyone. They praise aligned behaviors and redirect mis-aligned ones to create consistent service to others.

How do you know if you are a servant leader? You don’t have a vote! The only folks who do have a vote are those that interact with you daily: family members, friends, colleagues, customers, and strangers. You must ask regularly, “How can I be of greater service to you?” then refine your behaviors to serve more effectively.

What do you think? What are your best servant leader practices, ones you use frequently to serve others? What did your great bosses do to serve you effectively? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Subscribe to my free weekly blog & podcast updates. Subscribers enjoy two “fabulous and exclusive gifts” which include my “Be a GREAT Boss” ebook plus an excerpt from my new #GREAT Bosses tweet book.

How does your boss fare in my new fast & free Great Boss Assessment? Contribute your experiences – it takes only minutes. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

Photo © istockphoto.com/ridofranz. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

UnemploymentWhat did your worst boss do to deserve that not-so-coveted title?

I’ve experienced the same lousy boss behaviors that you probably have at some point in your career.

One of my lousy bosses made grand promises – to staff, to volunteers, to customers. However, he kept few of his commitments. I learned his word was not trustworthy.

Another lousy boss of mine was amazingly skilled at pointing out my mistakes and failures. However, he was quiet when I exceeded expectations and moved the organization forward. I learned to insulate myself from his presence because all I heard from him was disappointment.

My worst boss asked me to lie. My non-profit branch had raised $25,000 in our annual campaign my first year as executive director. That was double what the branch had raised before! At the campaign’s closing dinner, with 300 volunteers and staff in attendance, my boss told me to announce that we’d raised not $25,000, but $30,000. I refused and announced the real total. He was not happy; I didn’t care. Our values mis-match was deep and wide. I left that boss and job as quickly as I could.

What makes leaders behave the way they do? My research and experience leads me to believe that there are three primary drivers of leader behaviors:

  • Their personality, disposition, or social style (these are different terms for the same driver),
  • Their organizational culture, and
  • Role models – good ones and not-so-good ones.

Role models are immensely powerful to us humans. We observe how others behave, how they treat people, and how those behaviors are reinforced by the organization through recognition, bonuses, and the like. We notice how our role models are validated and we embrace their behaviors as our own.

The problem is that one may be embracing lousy boss behaviors and not even realize it.

Feedback from global respondents to my Performance-Values Assessment note that proven best boss behaviors are not universally embraced. For example, only 52% of over 375 respondents believe that their direct boss holds everyone accountable for their commitments. Only 30% believe that their direct boss gives them effective performance coaching. 43% believe their direct boss provides regular praise for effort as well as accomplishment. 61% believe their direct boss is honest in his/her dealings with them.

These results indicate that proven “best boss” behaviors are experienced, on average, less than 45% of the time in workplaces around the globe every day. That’s not a high mark. It means that there are more lousy bosses running teams and businesses today than there are best bosses.

My research shows that great bosses inspire employee engagement, WOW’ed customers, and higher profits than lousy bosses.

Seek out #GREATBoss behaviors and emulate those. Notice lousy boss behaviors, and eliminate them from your “influencing tool kit.”

What did your worst boss do to earn that title? Who are your “best boss” role models – and what do they do that inspires you to emulate their behaviors? Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

What is it like to live in your organization’s culture? Share your experiences in my fast & free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are described on my blog’s research page.

This research can help you refine your organization’s corporate culture. Contact me to discuss conducting the Performance-Values Assessment in your company.

Photo © istockphoto.com/shironosov. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

coin flipOnce again, headlines in global media outlets this week highlight American “male politicians behaving badly.”

San Diego mayor Bob Filner is facing allegations of decades of sexual harassment. Seven women have publicly accused Filner of degrading behavior. One woman filed suit this week against Filner and the city. Despite calls for his resignation from local, state, and congressional officials, Filner says he will not resign.

New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner resigned his congressional seat in 2011 after a sexting scandal. Weiner admitted this week that he continued sexting as many as 10 women after he resigned. Despite calls for him to drop out of the NYC mayor’s race, so far he has refused to do so.

London’s The Telegraph headlined it’s report, “The American Way: Anthony Weiner shows no shame . . . ”

That bold headline reflects on the US’s poor showing in these circumstances. Our badly-behaving men politicians do not typically accept personal responsibility despite overwhelming evidence that the fault is theirs, alone.

I believe these are personal integrity issues. These issues may have other influences (power, personal gratification, etc.) but, at their core, they are integrity issues.

What do I mean by integrity?

Dictionary.com defines integrity as adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

Integrity is built when individuals promise to demonstrate strong morals, then do what they say they will do – they live strong morals, in every interaction.

Integrity doesn’t mean you act in alignment with your moral compass in “some” interactions but not others. Integrity happens when you’re in alignment in every interaction. With people of different genders, races, ages, religious beliefs, sexual preference, etc. Every person, every time.

Consistent personal integrity won’t get you headlines but it will garner you trust and respect of those you work with. It boosts relationships with bosses, colleagues, team members, and customers. It creates psychological safety within those relationships, which drives others’ willingness to apply discretionary energy towards shared values and goals.

Strong personal integrity is powerful – and worth pursuing.

Don’t let the current headlines paint the entire picture of American integrity. There are positive stories in the ether but you have to seek them out. Two that inspired me recently include:

  • A New York Times Magazine article features Jason Everman‘s story of his transition from rock star wanna-be (he was kicked out of two genre-defining bands: Nirvana and Soundgarden) to highly decorated Special Forces member.
  • PGA golfer Hunter Mahan was in the lead at 13 strokes under par of the Canadian Open on Saturday morning, July 27. While on the practice tee, he received a call from his pregnant wife. Though due to deliver the baby in August, she was headed to the hospital after starting labor. Mahan withdrew from the tournament at that moment to fly to Dallas to be with his wife. His potential winnings meant far less than being present at the birth of he and his wife’s first child.

Be a person of high integrity. Our world, today and in the future, desperately needs those people.

In what ways did your best bosses demonstrate high personal integrity? What do you do, day to day, to ensure you’re living according to your strong moral compass?

Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

What is it like to live in your organization’s culture? Share your experiences in my fast & free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are described on my blog’s research page.

This research can help you refine your organization’s corporate culture. Contact me to discuss conducting the Performance-Values Assessment in your company.

Photo © istockphoto.com/jgroup. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

PlanningI continue on my journey to better health & fitness. I’ve been on Tim Ferriss’ slow-carb diet for 30 months. It’s helped me lose weight, gain strength, and feel better. I am more alert, more present, and more engaged in daily activities.

I travel a lot. When I’m not in my own kitchen, where I have control over what I prepare and eat, I am bold in restaurants and with room service staff to ensure that I’m getting slow-carb foods. Still, I often ponder, “What exactly am I eating? Are there additives in these foods that inhibit my well-being?”

Depressing data about food additives is readily available. The plate of food I’ve ordered may look healthy (grilled chicken with vegetables is a staple) – but I can’t know for certain what preservatives are staring me in the face.

Understanding as much as possible about this data helps me make better diet decisions.

Leaders in organizations face a similar challenge. Leaders base plans, decisions, and actions on what they believe to be true about their organization in the moment. To what extent, though, do leaders “check their assumptions” against others’ perceptions – before making a decision or taking an action?

What is easily seen may not reflect the reality “behind the curtain.” For example, this 2012 study from Kenexa shows how human resource professional’s perceptions are far off their employee’s reality.

How can you ensure you know your organization’s truth? These four approaches may help.

De-insulate Yourself. It is likely that you have, unintentionally, depended upon a select few players to give you information about what’s happening daily. Increase your sources inside the company. Dedicate space and time to learn from different players throughout the organization to ensure you’re getting the big picture.

Genuinely Connect with Team Members. Employees know which leaders are truly interested in them as people, not just in them as contributors. Learn people’s names. Discuss their families and hobbies. Take five minutes to visit, not problem-solve. Over time, these genuine connections will enable others to tell you their perceptions, concerns, and hopes.

Seek Out Truth-Tellers. It is easy for leaders to, over time, surround themselves with people who reinforce the leader’s beliefs & perceptions. The most effective leaders engage with truth-tellers often. These folks are unafraid of describing the reality of the leader’s plans, decisions, and actions. Knowing the truth makes future decisions more effective.

Share Your Assumptions & Your Learnings. Check your assumptions by sharing them with team members. Say, “I believe ‘x’ is an opportunity for us. What do you think?” As you learn more of your organization’s truths, share those. Say, “I’m learning that many of you don’t understand a recent decision of mine. Here’s what I was trying to accomplish . . .” Listen and continue to refine your assumptions, plans, decisions, and actions.

In what ways to you “dig in” to learn others’ reality before making plans, decisions, and actions? What did your #GreatBosses do to stay connected to employee perceptions?

Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

What is it like to live in your organization’s culture? Share your experiences in my fast & free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are described on my blog’s research page.

This research can help you refine your organization’s corporate culture. Contact me to discuss conducting the Performance-Values Assessment in your company.

Photo © istockphoto.com/shironosov. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Troubled womanAre you, today, working for your best boss? A best boss creates a work environment where employees deliver expected results while loving their work environment.

Or, maybe you’re working for your worst boss – or for an “OK” boss.

If you’re not working for your best boss, you’re not fully present. You’re not able to apply your discretionary energy in service to team goals or customers.

In my experience and research, employees around the globe have far fewer best bosses in their careers than they have lousy bosses.

One of my lousy bosses never set clear strategy or goals with me and my team members. We didn’t know if we were “on the right track” until we shared our efforts with this boss. He was quick to tell us how badly we were doing but was unable to clarify exactly what he wanted us to do.

Our team environment was conflict-ridden with frustrations near the boiling point far too often. When I left that job it was a huge weight off of my shoulders!

Do lousy bosses really not see the issues they create? How can leaders learn to be more effective influencers, acting in service to employees?

I meet the remarkable Bill Treasurer a few weeks ago at a book marketing workshop. Bill’s new book, Leaders Open Doors, presents a wonderfully simple approach to “lift people, profits, and performance.”

Here are three nuggets of brilliance from Bill’s book. Consider these as you refine your behaviors to be every employee’s best boss.

  • Opportunity
    Leaders open doors when they leveraging opportunities for staff to grow, develop new skills, and build their value to the organization and it’s customers. Opportunities generate enthusiasm and excitement for the possibilities ahead. Opportunities shine a light on the organization’s desired path, so people see where they need to be. And, people love being hand-picked to pursue opportunities.
  • Second Chances
    Leaders open doors when they give people second chances. They forgive mistakes – and lay out expectations so that the same mistake won’t be made again. Drama is minimized; boss tantrums do not inspire employees, it demotivates them. Grudges create self-fulfilling prophesies. Open the door to learning and greater contribution with second chances.
  • Personal Transformation
    Leaders open doors when they elevate standards, ethics, and performance by creating a workplace that enables personal transformation. How do our direct reports or colleagues perceive us? Are we seen as serving others or serving ourselves? Invite honest, direct feedback. Learning how others see us can inspire an internal shift. These shifts take time but help us contribute better and serve better.

Your purchase of Leaders Open Doors will do much more than make you a better leader. 100% of the proceeds of Leaders Open Doors are being donated to charities that serve children with special needs. Bill’s book is available on Amazon.

How did your best boss open doors for you? What insights from your best boss guide your actions with your team today?

Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

What is it like to live in your organization’s culture? Share your experiences in my fast & free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are described on my blog’s research page.

This research can help you refine your organization’s corporate culture. Contact me to discuss conducting the Performance-Values Assessment in your company.

Photo © istockphoto.com/shironosov. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”