How do you view others? Do you see them as 1) problems that get in your way or a means to help you get something you want, or do you see them as 2) people with problems and needs who you might be able to help?
When I pose this question to people, most respond with the latter of those two choices with an expression that shows some offense that I could possibly think them so self-focused as to take the former view.
Ironically though, every day I encounter businesses that demonstrate the self-centered mindset, and many of those same people who take offense at the thought that they could be self-focused make their living in those enterprises. In fact, some are leaders of the self-focused charge in those organizations.
This leads me to wonder, why do we see it as somehow okay to be self-focused in business when it is taboo in our personal lives?
Moreover, why is it seen from the inside of our workplaces as the way business is done, yet when those same this-is-the-way-business-is-done people are customers, they expect very different behavior?
Business is for and about human beings, and human beings are, by nature, unselfish and helpful. I know that is hard to believe, but for about the first 190,000 years of our human existence, we were very prosocial hunter-gatherers who shared, helped, and cooperated with others. It wasn’t until about the last 10,000 years, when we started to settle and farm, that we began owning personal property, defending our tribes, and behaving more selfishly.
Current research has shown us that many of our beliefs that humanity is selfish and evil are untrue, in fact, if you look at the behavior of infants, over and over they demonstrate a natural inclination for being unselfish and helpful. It is not until they see and experience more self-focused, possessive, and defensive behaviors that they gain selfish tendencies. It would seem original sin is not so original after all.
So, what does this mean to us?
It means our natural state is one of seeing others as people with needs and problems who we could help, and that the offense we take when someone thinks us selfish is not an accident, it is our true nature coming through.
Why not get back to that natural helpful inclination and bring it to work? Why not move your workplace from self-focus to service-focus centered on how your business helps people? This does not mean staging some revolution, rather, it means starting from where you are and practicing more service-focused thinking with those around you.
Here are some steps you can take to get moving in a more service-focused mode.
- Begin working on how you view the people you encounter. Make the effort to see them as people with problems and needs rather than as problems themselves. Remember, you must lead and go first, you cannot control how others view you, you can only influence a different and better way.
- Begin making the service nature of business a regular theme and talking point in meetings and conversations. Delivering value that helps people -the de facto definition of service- is what business is all about in the end.
- Eliminate language that dehumanizes people. Stop calling customers things like targets, prospects, and leads to be qualified, handled, and closed. These types of words turn people into things that are to be controlled and manipulated. When customers instead become moms, dads, students, or guests, they take on a human face. Serving them becomes the right thing to do because they could be family or friends instead of faceless objects.
- Begin looking at processes and systems. How can they be made easier and more enjoyable for both customers and fellow teammates? How can those inanimate structures be made more fitting for humans?
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