Tag Archives | Servant leadership

Deliver on the Promise of Servant Leadership

working togetherThe quality of many work environments around the globe isn’t very good. Some would say it sucks. The frustration and stress most employees experience at work quashes hope, discretionary energy, well being, cooperation, and performance.

The data is undeniable. Only 21 percent of employees feel strongly valued at work (TinyPulse). 72 percent of employees report that the most important factor in their job satisfaction is “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” – yet only 33 percent experience that respect (SHRM). Employees are leaving their jobs at the fastest rate since 2007 (US Department of Labor).

Data alone doesn’t tell the story. Human experiences can.

Here’s a powerful example. Two friends changed jobs in the last year. Both are talented, engaged actors on this stage we call earth. Their experiences, skills, and industries are quite different, but both were ecstatic about the promise of working for a great boss and a great company.

In both cases, these friends were hired by someone they respected and were excited to work for. Within months, however, the bubble burst. Their great bosses left their respective companies, leaving my friends in a dysfunctional work environment with poor leadership.

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Why did their bosses leave? Politics. Favoritism. Promises made and not kept. Values conflicts. My friends are doing the best they can under trying circumstances – to say the least.

Who has the responsibility and authority to create a powerful, positive, productive work culture . . . to ensure all employees are treated with respect . . . and to ensure employees feel strongly valued at work?

Leaders do.

And, many leaders don’t. They don’t know how to manage their work culture. They’ve never been asked to do that.

When leaders do embrace this responsibility and fully implement a culture of trust, respect, and dignity, amazing things happen. Engagement thrives. Service quality skyrockets. Results and profits jump 30 percent and more.

Our world desperately needs servant leaders – in our organizations, in our neighborhoods, in our political system, in our court system – basically, everywhere. Servant leaders create environments where values – how people treat each other – are as important as results.

There are servant leaders all around us. We read about and appreciate servant leaders of global organizations like Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group and Garry Ridge of the WD-40 Companies. We know less about local servant leaders like my friend, Umair, here in Colorado.

There is a movement afoot to formalize what effective leadership looks and sounds like – to inspire leaders across the globe to embrace the promise of servant leadership. Check out the True Leader Creed, a recent effort created by valued friends. If you agree with what the creed requires, sign it – and live it.

We need less divisiveness, less dismissiveness, and less demeaning words and actions from leaders today. We need servant leaders that create respectful workplaces and meaningful work that serves others. Servant leaders praise, encourage, inspire, and hold others accountable for being our best selves.

The road we’re on isn’t a great one. We need a new direction. Sign the creed. Be of service and of grace. Inspire people to amazing performance.

You’ll have a lot more fun – and you’ll attract and retain talented, engaged employees.

Does your boss today model servant leadership? How good is the quality of your team’s work environment? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Steven Pepple – Adobe Stock. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2016 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.


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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.”

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Leadership Development in 2016

Two Women Working At Computer In Contemporary OfficeMerriam-Webster declared “culture” the word of the year in 2014. We anxiously await the announcement of the 2015 word of the year. I’m hoping it’s “servant leadership.” (OK, that’s two words!)

With that in mind, here are my recommendations for leadership development in 2016.

For large companies, budgets have long since been formalized for the coming year. Many organizations invest in leadership training. If they haven’t already, HR team members are mapping out their company’s training curriculum right now.

For small businesses, they may have limited funds available to train leaders. There are a variety of solid leadership training programs available for individual leaders – at colleges, by chambers of commerce, in public workshops by training companies, and more.

Leadership training is a good thing, right? The number of hours leaders spend in development programs and the number of dollars spent on those programs are both easy to measure. Solid leadership development programs definitely build knowledge and awareness of effective leadership practices.

The problem is that participating in a training program doesn’t guarantee effective leadership behaviors are applied in daily interactions.

Though training expenditures and training hours are easily tracked, these aren’t the best metrics to use to gauge leader effectiveness.

For example, I’ve studied organizations that met development targets of 40-120 hours per leader annually. However, their leaders were not effective. They didn’t solve problems proactively. They didn’t delegate authority to talented, engaged team members. They mis-treated employees and customers. They didn’t consistently generate budgeted nets.

Yet those leaders kept their jobs. They were seen as “well-trained.”

In 2016, there are better metrics to monitor to ensure that your leadership development efforts result in effective leadership across your organization, whether it is a large multi-national company, a local neighborhood business, or anything in between.

This year, pay close attention to my “big three”: employee engagement, customer service, and results. Each of these is equally important! Most organizations measure, monitor, and reward only results. If leaders get those results in ways that erode engagement or service, so be it. The organization is getting exactly what they deserve – by focusing exclusively on results.

By measuring engagement and service as well, companies have a much clearer picture of the actual impact that their leaders are having on employees, customers, and the business.

By measuring engagement, service, and results, companies can celebrate those leaders that positively impact all three. They can easily identify leaders that fall short of positively impacting all three.

By all means, provide leadership development programs for your leaders. That’s 10 percent of the investment needed to have consistently effective leaders in your company. The other 90 percent is time and energy spent:

  • Regularly measuring every leader’s impact on engagement, service, and results,
  • Celebrating aligned behavior (positive impact on any of those big three), and
  • Re-directing mis-aligned behavior (eroding impact on any of those big three).

Don’t get hooked by the temptation to focus exclusively on the time or money spent on leadership development. It’s much more beneficial to invest time, energy, and mentoring in developing effective leaders and in crafting a safe, inspiring workplace culture, every day.

What is your organization’s philosophy on leadership development? To what extent does your company measure engagement, service, AND results to gauge leader effectiveness? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Monkey Business – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2015 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


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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.”

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To Stop Bullying, Stand Up and Show Up

Business group in a row. leader with open handBella is a 5th grader who is battling a life-threatening blood disorder. Last year – as part of Team Impact which pairs children with serious illnesses with college athletic teams – Bella signed a “letter of intent” with the Denver University Division 1 women’s volleyball team. Bella helps out at volleyball practice, has a locker with her name on it, and is the team’s biggest cheerleader.

One symptom of Bella’s illness is hearing loss. She wears hearing aids. At her elementary school recently, a few classmates began bullying her about it.

Her “big sisters” on the DU volleyball team heard about the bullying and decided that “no one was going to mess with one of our family,” one player said. Nine of the college players showed up at Bella’s classroom the next day. Their unexpected visit cheered Bella up – and their presentation to Bella’s class emphasized that different is good, bullying is not.

The team reacted promptly to hearing about Bella’s mistreatment. They stood up and showed up to support their young “team mate” and to persuade Bella’s peers to be kind to everyone.

The Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2014 USA survey found that over 27 percent of respondents have experienced bullying in the workplace. Respondents said that 56 percent of workplace bullying is initiated by bosses.

Worse, the study found that 72 percent of employers deny, discount, rationalize, encourage, or defend bullying.

The instituted offers solutions and resources for targets of abuse and for employers.

Others are standing up against bullying. A recent report in Sports Illustrated examined the prevalence of abuses of power by college coaches of their athletes. Bullying by coaches has been documented for decades. The difference today? The power of social media.

Last May, one football player shared his story of bullying by his coach on Twitter. His experience led to other athletes – current and former players of this coach – to add their experiences. “We had the exact same issues! Thanks for standing up!” one former player tweeted. The groundswell caused the college chancellor to initiate an investigation by outside attorneys. Within weeks, the report validated the abuse of players by the coach – and he was fired one week before the team’s opener.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity, has studied positive emotions for decades. In looking at bullying by college coaches, she explains, “in terms of bonding, loyalty, commitment to a team and personal development over time, negativity doesn’t work as well as positivity.”

Ohio State’s Dr. Ben Tepper has made studying abusive leadership in the workplace his specialty. When asked by the NCAA to compare coach-athlete relationships to his database of boss-employee relationships, Tepper found that abusive leadership is two to three times as prevalent in college sports as it is in workplaces.

Tepper explains, “the studies all say that there’s no incremental benefit to being hostile. Hostility always produces diminishing returns.”

When abusive treatment happens, when bullying happens, don’t look the other way. Stand up and show up. Point out the abusive behavior. Ask that it stop.

You may not fix the bullying behavior – but you’ll raise awareness that it’s happening. If enough of us stand up and show up, maybe we can reduce abusive leadership.

Have you experienced bullying in the workplace? How have your proactive organizations responded to quash bullying? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © FotolEdhar – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2015 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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.”

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Through Thick and Thin

Green forest summer background, MontenegroTrue friends stick with us even when times are tough – “through thick and thin,” is the mantra.

True leaders do the same. They remain in service to their team members even when faced with undesirable circumstances.

The origination of this phrase is found in Olde English. The phrase ‘through thicket and thin wood’ was a literal description of any attempt to stroll through the heavily wooded English countryside.

The earliest written form of this phrase is found in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Reeve’s Tale, specifically), written in the late 14th century!

Today we find greater self-serving behaviors from leaders and team members than we find activities that serve others. Western individualism and the acceptance of an “I win, you lose” competitive work environment breeds exactly what we’d expect. Servant leadership is seen as all too rare.

In fact, when leaders act in service to team members – for the greater good of team members – it’s big news!

Here’s an example. In Austin, TX, a popular Chick-fil-A restaurant reopened in August after a five month remodel. The owner paid all 50 employees’ their salaries during the closure, despite no revenues coming in. In fact, he gave all employees a $1-an-hour raise during that timeframe.

The franchise owner of 15 years, Jeff Glover, said, “I don’t want my group to have to forgo their salaries.” He added, “It would be a real financial crisis for the 50 families represented by the workers here to have to go five months without a job.”

Glover’s decision shocked his employees. Paying employees during a shutdown is highly unusual in the food service industry – possibly in every industry.

Why did this restaurant owner make that investment? Over the short term, he’s bleeding cash. Remodels are expensive. Paying staff salaries during the remodel just adds to the net loss over that five month period.

He did it because he genuinely cares for his team members and their families. If those team members went out to find other work during the remodel, they might not have been available to rejoin his team when the restaurant re-opened.

He did it because it makes financial sense. His initial outlay kept his talented, engaged team together. Glover now has experienced team members who can help mentor new hires (the store added a third drive through lane in addition to expanding the dining room) and get them up to speed quickly and efficiently.

He did it because it makes “heart” sense. His employees’ commitment to Glover, the restaurant, the culture, their customers, and their team members skyrocketed. Their pride in their team and in the customer experience translates into cooperative interaction, genuine service efforts, and proactive problem solving.

Servant leadership is not the norm but the benefits are astounding. If you want employees to stick with you through thick and thin, you must do the same for them, first.

What is your experience? To what degree is your boss self-serving or in service to others? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Vlada Zhikhareva – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2015 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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.”

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Leaders, You’re Always On Duty

Magnifying Glass, Scrutiny, Analyzing.This week brought to the forefront examples of “leaders behaving badly.”

In one case, two Michigan legislators refused to resign after their extramarital affair and subsequent cover-up. Both are married with children – and both admitted to misconduct in office and misuse of taxpayer resources.

By refusing to resign the couple forced the state house to hold a drama-filled 14+ hour session – until 4am last Friday morning – to expel the legislators. Eventually one resigned and the other was expelled.

In another case, an assistant high school football coach in Texas was so angered by “bad calls” from a referee during a game that he said, “this guy needs to pay for cheating us” to his defensive backs. Within minutes, the referee was blindsided, tackled, and speared by two players – in full gear, in the middle of a play.

The players were ejected from the game and have since been suspended from the team. The coach has been suspended and is under investigation for orchestrating the attack.

In another case, a presidential candidate mocked the physical appearance of a fellow candidate. In a national interview, he said, “Look at that face! Would you vote for that?”

Whether we’re leaders or not, whether at work or at home or in our communities, everything we do has an impact. Our plans, decisions, and actions are not neutral. They either help, hinder, or hurt the creation of a safe, inspiring, productive environment.

Leaders carry a heavier burden than those without formal influencing responsibility. The burden is that they are always under scrutiny – 24/7. The power and responsibility that comes with their title and position can cause even a casual comment to be interpreted as a command. A dismissive comment carries great weight.

How leaders behave is closely scrutinized, analyzed, and evaluated. Choosing to help build a home for Habitat for Humanity over a weekend? That’s scrutinized. Buying a new car every six months and parking it in a reserved spot just outside the front door? That’s scrutinized.

The burden and scrutiny leaders face is unfair – but it is the reality.

How can you ensure that you – leader or not – are behaving kindly, not badly?

First, understand who you are as a person on this planet. Formalize your personal constitution by defining your personal purpose (your present day reason for being), your personal values and behaviors, and your leadership (or “influencing”) philosophy.

By clarifying these key elements, acting in alignment with these elements is much easier. You’ll scrutinize your own plans, decisions, and actions – as will those around you.

Second, ask others their perceptions of how well you are serving them, enabling their success, and supporting them. Be open to learning that others may see some gaps you need to address. Thank them for their insights and tell them you’ll work to align. Then, work to align! And, ask again, regularly, so you know if you’re on the servant leadership track.

One more thing: if you formalize your personal constitution and have a purpose, values, behaviors, and leadership philosophy that is entirely self-serving? Expect that the feedback you get won’t be pretty, and the scrutiny you experience will be from a very disappointed constituency.

Go with servant leadership. It’s much more gratifying, creates greater productivity, and builds others up. What do you have to lose?

What is your experience? To what extent do leaders behave badly in your organization? How well do you live your personal constitution? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © BillionPhotos.com – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2015 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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.”

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