Posts tagged #leadership

5 Ways To Lead by Serving


Traditionally in the workplace, teams are structured for the employees to serve their leaders. With servant leadership, this structure is flipped so the leader is serving the employees. The idea behind servant leadership is that if leaders serve their employees, their employees will feel empowered to do great work and achieve career satisfaction. Industry leaders are increasingly recognizing the power of servant leadership to increase performance and engagement.

Chick-fil-A founder, Truett Cathy’s leadership style demonstrates how to lead others by serving them. Despite a childhood of poverty during the Great Depression, Cathy prevailed with good work habits and attitude. Here are a few of his most well-known leadership decisions:

  • Cathy mandated that all Chick-fil-A stores close on Sundays to give his employees a day with their families.

  • He also launched a college scholarship program where he awards young employees financial support during college.

  • Cathy intentionally didn’t take the company public to ensure decisions remain aligned with his values rather than changing at the whim of investors.

Cathy's servant leadership decisions not only made him extremely well-liked and respected by customers and employees, but Chick-fil-A’s success highlights the benefits of the leadership style.

Would you like to see how servant leadership can boost team morale and performance? Let’s review 5 ways you can lead your team by serving them.

5 Ways To Lead By Serving

1. Demonstrate Through Words and Actions

When practicing servant leadership, show consistency in your actions and morality. It’s important for your team to observe actions that backup your words. This builds credibility and respect between leaders and employees.

2. Trust and Respect Employees

Show your employees that you care and respect them! Being knowledgeable alone does not make you a great leader. Being trusting, caring, and respectful makes you a great leader. Depending on the type of team you’re leading, you can demonstrate trust and respect through active listening, relationship building and acknowledging their ideas and opinions.

3. Active Listening

“A true natural servant automatically responds to any problem by listening first," states Robert Greenleaf, founder of the modern servant leadership movement in 1971. We are built to react. However, when it comes to servant leadership, it’s crucial to put reactions aside and focus on actively listening to your employees and reflecting on their responses. Listening brings insight. Once we focus on listening, we can begin to understand what motivates our employees and how to serve them to excel.

4. Empower your Team

If you expect your team to achieve more, they will. On the other hand, if you expect your team will fail in certain aspects, they likely will. Focus on inspiring and empowering your team. The more you do, the greater impact it will have on their job performance and, ultimately, you as their leader.

5. Practice Humility

Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. But it’s how we handle the aftermath of our mistakes that set the stage for growth. As you lead by serving, practice humility when you make mistakes and when you achieve your goals. Don’t let your ego get in the way of building credibility and respect with your team.

We shared 5 ways to lead by serving, and plenty more tactics can be applied! Do you have other ways to demonstrate servant leadership?

Posted on August 22, 2018 and filed under Career.

Managing Communication: Messages to Employees May Not Be So Obvious

Communication, that essential element for any manager, is often not as clear as we might think. Two primary goals of a line manager’s communication are to convey the organization’s goals and strategies, and to give clear directions and rationale for employees. The ultimate objective is to align the team’s work to the overall corporate strategy and lead to positive outcomes. Bidirectional communication includes listening to employees and treating what they say seriously, providing opportunities for productive discussions. Yet the Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that a myth in strategy execution is that “communication equals understanding,” citing that only “55% of the middle managers we have surveyed can name even one of their company’s top five priorities.”

From the time a worker is elevated to manager or a position of authority—often without the support of management and leadership training—a certain distortion in perception occurs. Fully 91% of employees surveyed in a recent HBR poll report that communication issues prevent executives from leading effectively. By being aware of this shift, managers can reflect upon communication challenges and address problems before they become too damaging to the manager-employee relationship. Here, we discuss some key communication challenges and offer suggestions for avoiding these pitfalls.

A Manager’s Perception

Many managers fall victim to some level of power poisoning, often by forgetting what it’s like to be the employee. This drop in empathy, according to increasing authority, has been detailed in numerous management studies. Though this progression is quite normal—it’s only natural to pay more attention to the boss than to the intern—the result is often that leaders miss out on the true perspective of subordinates when they need it most.

This so-called toxic tandem, outlined by Stanford’s Robert Sutton, is the tendency for managers to become less empathetic to subordinates while the employees more closely examine the boss’s words and actions. Leaders can sidestep the pitfalls of the toxic tandem by increasing their understanding of how messages are received by subordinates.

For instance, when managers have a big announcement or change to make, they have already processed the scenarios, considered alternatives, made decisions, and accepted the reality of the situation. By understanding that employees will also need time to process the situation, and that drastic changes may mean part of the message is missed in the initial delivery, an empathetic leader will repeat simple elements of the message over time to ensure that the most important takeaways from the discussion sink in.

Manager to Employee Exchanges

As previously mentioned, the downward communication from manager to employee is not always a smooth path. Frequently, managers are smart, well-educated leaders who aren’t as adept at delivering information as they may hope.

A manager who has specific ideas about how a task or project should be completed ought to provide that information as a guideline for the employee, especially when the guidelines determine how the employee’s performance will be judged. It is better to avoid assuming that the guidelines are immediately obvious or that the message is completely clear.

Welcome employee questions that seek clarity – the more the topic is discussed, the more likely the employee is to understand the perspective and complete the project to everyone’s mutual satisfaction. Consider that an employee who asks numerous questions may not fully understand the task as initially outlined, so the questions are seeking to clear up ambiguities rather than questioning the manager’s expertise or authority.

Remember that when the expected outcomes are not obtained, the manager’s message to the employee may not have been effective. Reflect on how the toxic tandem might be at play in the delivery and reception of the message—a different approach or discussing the rationale and context for the work in deeper detail may resolve the disconnect between what a manager thinks was said and what the employee heard and interpreted.

Employee to Manager Exchanges

When seeking information from employees, be aware that the framing of the question often predetermines the response that the manager will receive.

For example, a common mistake is asking leading questions, such as “Don’t you think…?” When the employee privately disagrees, he or she is faced with either giving the answer that the boss wants despite personal opinions, or giving an answer that conflicts with the boss’s thinking. Many employees will want to avoid the discomfort and risk of outwardly disagreeing with the boss; the employee is more likely to give the former response, leading to the manager missing out on the true measure of the situation.

Therefore, it’s better to avoid leading questions and instead ask broad, open-ended questions when seeking opinions and information. This allows employees the opportunity to express more honest opinions and increase their sense of ownership in the discussion. Examples of open-ended questions include: What do you think about this new initiative? How did your client meeting go? Tell me about your project. Proper open-ended questions cede control of the conversation to the responding employee, whose full answer will draw upon his or her own knowledge or opinions.

If you are experiencing particular challenges in communicating with your employees, we recommend that you consider how your perspective may differ from that of your subordinates. The message that you think is perfectly clear may not take into account the time and additional context that employees need to reach similar conclusions. The consideration of these communication scenarios can improve the manager-employee relationship, and ultimately, improve performance and outcomes.

Amanda Y. Hendrix
Expert Consultant, The Wilbanks Consulting Group