On a recent flight to a speaking engagement, I had a wonderful conversation with a senior leader of a midsize company. As usually happens, we got on the topic of how serving and caring for team members results in a better bottom line over the long term. This leader, who we’ll call Jeff, was as passionate about the idea of servant leadership as I am.
I asked Jeff about some of the specific actions he has taken over the years to better serve his team members. Although he shared several great practices, the one that really struck me was a step he takes in the hiring process as it applies to people who would have to change locations.
He mentioned that after he and his team have narrowed the pool of potential hires to their top choice, the final interview is scheduled. If the candidate has a family, the company pays to fly the family in to town and put that family up for a few days to allow them to explore the new town.
The last phase of the final interview is a dinner with the candidate and his or her spouse. Jeff’s focus during this interview is to get the spouse to open up about how he or she feels about the move, the new position, and the new location. He mentioned one specific interview in which the wife of the candidate made it very clear that the new location would put a significant strain on the family.
Although the candidate was a great fit in every other way, Jeff decided not to offer him the position. He knew that the strain on the candidate’s family and on his marriage would eventually lead to a lot of unhappiness for him and his family, as well as to suboptimal performance at work, and might result in the new hire having to leave after a few years, which would be more costly for the company over the long term.
A question I often receive during interviews or after keynote speeches is, “How would you summarize what a servant leader does differently than other leaders, in one sentence?” I believe Jeff provided a perfect example of this with how he handled the situation above.
A servant leader places equal or greater emphasis on identifying and helping to meet the legitimate needs of team members as he or she does on bottom results.
Although the legitimate needs people have will differ a bit from person to person, below are a few examples of very legitimate needs that every high-performing team member has:
- The need to be happy
- The need to feel safe
- The need to feel that they belong
- The need to continuously grow both personally and professionally
By ensuring that these legitimate needs are met for team members, a servant leader also ensures that she or he sustains a high-performance culture that attracts and retains highly talented, highly engaged people who consistently deliver bottom-line results.
What are some of the ways you work to meet the above needs for your team members?
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