A CEO serving employees at a banquet, a supervisor bringing morning coffee to new parents, a shipping company president rolling up his sleeves and unloading a truck.
Over the years I have observed many senior leaders in a variety of situations — and the ones who really inspired me were those who graciously served others.
I remember an annual Christmas dinner I attended with my husband who was working for a large construction company. The affair was an elaborate and elegant evening for more than 1,000 employees. As we walked into the large banquet area, who should personally greet us at the door, offer us a drink and stand in line for us, but the new CEO!
That behavior spoke volumes to me, and as I shared my feedback later on how much we felt valued, he replied “I’m just an engineer who happens to lead a group of incredible people.” I will never forget what an incredibly gracious and personable man he was and how very successful the organization is still today — one of the top construction companies in North America!
There are many examples of how you might serve your people in ways that build trust and loyalty. Here are some more examples I have collected over the years.
He Noticed Their Pain
Two young men in the office were suffering from lack of sleep, as they were both experiencing the joys of becoming fathers. Their supervisor made a point of bringing them coffee every morning for the first few months, along with an encouraging word. These men still talk about how much that meant to them!
She Did Some Yuck Chores
One new supervisor was struggling to connect with her new team. After taking our course, she decided to donate a few hours a week to each employee, doing whatever they delegated to her. At first they gave her filing jobs, but after a few weeks, they started sharing things, asking her advice and coming up with ideas on how to improve things.
He Jumped In and Helped
During tight times and busy times, this will be most appreciated. The president of an international company, arriving at a satellite office for a meeting, came in via the shipping department. He saw the crew needed help unloading a truck and, as he was early for the meeting, he rolled up his sleeves and helped. The great part was, no one knew who he was until later that day, at which point his act of service went viral!
I Let Them Go Home Early
Occasionally I would send my employees home early on a Friday afternoon after a long, hard week and I stayed late to cover their work. This was a small thank you that went a long way.
Look for opportunities to put your employees first, such as
- let them line up first
- share opportunities that you have been privy to
- let them shine in front of senior management.
Now It’s Your Turn
What can you do to serve your people? Bring them a coffee? Offer to do a yuck chore? Jump in and help them do… what?
Author of The Supervisor’s Safari Guidebook Series