“When organizations develop leaders and team members who really care about others, community service efforts can be really powerful because people tend to talk about and remember them,” he asserts. “In addition to being rewarding (it’s simply the right thing to do!), serving the community is a very powerful way to build trust and rapport with potential customers.
Stop fixating on providing perks and pay more attention to the little things. In Serve to Be Great, Tenney offers several examples of companies that go to great lengths to show employees how much they care by offering incredible perks. But perks alone don’t result in a team culture that people want to be a part of.
“The perks aren’t necessary,” Tenney says. “Perks are easily copied and can been seen as a façade. What’s most important is to consistently show team members that you truly care about them—and believe it or not, that doesn’t take a lot of money or effort. Little things like making time for personal interaction, asking more questions, listening more, and showing sincere appreciation for a person’s efforts can go a long way. Honestly, we leaders need to carve out time for personal interaction; actually put it on our calendars. If we don’t, we might find that we’ve gone days, or even weeks, without connecting personally with team members.”
Make serving others a habit. Hardwiring servant leadership into your behavior is all about being mindful of seemingly small thoughts, decisions, and actions. For example, each time you’re about to interact with someone, ask yourself, How can I help this person? or, How can I contribute to this person’s happiness? You don’t need to have an immediate answer. Just adopting this attitude changes the dynamic of an interaction in positive ways, says Tenney. He also suggests starting each day by taking at least 5 or 10 minutes to contemplate the question, What can I do to better serve the people on my team today?
“The practice that made the biggest difference in my life is using the question, How will this help me to serve others? as a filter for decisions,” he shares. “Before I do something or consume something, I look at it from this perspective. This question helps me to waste less time pursuing things that don’t really matter, and has gradually made serving others the motivation for everything that I do.”
Gain power by giving it away. A common misperception among leaders is that they need to be the ones coming up with all of the great ideas or the people making great things happen. The best leaders, though, are the ones who are able to harness the talent and intelligence of the entire team. You can do this by pushing power down to the lowest levels possible.
“This is a great way to serve the people on your team,” Tenney says. “Empowered people become much more engaged in their work. You can empower your team members by involving them in decision making to the greatest extent possible, ensuring that they truly feel heard. You can also give team members final decision authority on tasks within their area of expertise. Just make sure that you’ve previously communicated the organization’s core values so that they can guide decision making. Let your people know that as long as a decision doesn’t conflict with a core value, you trust that they’ll do the right thing.”
Inspire your team to greatness. One of the greatest gifts we can offer team members is the gift of inspiration. In Serve to Be Great, Tenney cites Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of a leader who had an extraordinary ability to inspire others. He did so by connecting people to a purpose far greater than themselves and by carrying out his work with impeccable character.
“An important role of a leader is to clarify not only what the team does for the customer, but what the team does to make the world a better place,” Tenney explains. “The leader must also ensure that each team member can see clearly how his or her work contributes to that larger vision and find ways to frequently remind team members of their purpose.
Measure the things that really matter. Most of us do a fairly good job of measuring our progress toward quantitative goals. In our personal lives, for instance, we measure progress toward checking items off of our to-do lists, losing weight, or making money. Likewise, large organizations measure things like sales numbers, expenses, and quarterly profits.
“What we need to do a better job of measuring is who we are and how well we treat each other,” Tenney asserts. “When we measure these things, we make a much better effort to improve in them. Remember, it’s who we are and how well we treat each other that drive long-term success. I suggest that you seek feedback on how well you as a leader live the values of the organization and how well you treat the members of your team. You should also measure those things in your team members. By doing so, you’ll make it clear that they’re important and that people must develop these areas to be considered for a leadership position.”