Why is service a heroic necessity for success? To begin that discussion, we must define a few things starting with the purpose of business.
What is the purpose of business? While there are myriad opinions, it is actually quite clear and simple. The true purpose of business is to help people accomplish things they don’t want to do or don’t know how to do, or access things they cannot readily access.
What about leadership, what is its purpose? Again, many ideas come up but I don’t think it’s that complicated. The purpose of leadership is to complete a mission, and since moving missions typically requires people, leaders need to do whatever they can to help those people be successful in their role in the mission.
Finally, let’s consider service. How do we define it? Much like our other definitions, it’s not complicated. While there may be all kinds of ways to flower it up, service is really nothing more than helping people, period. All the adjectives people typically put in only serve to describe what makes service good or great.
So, given all of this, it stands to reason, if the purpose of business is to help customers and the purpose of leadership is to help people move a mission, then the purpose of business leaders is to help their employees be successful so they can complete the business mission of helping customers. And, if service is fundamentally about being helpful, it’s clear, all business is service and all leadership is service.
Now equipped with this service-focused thinking, a business-success formula emerges. Leaders help employees, employees help customers, customers help the business. Again, not complicated.
But, a problem often comes to the fore when I present these ideas. So many people don’t like the thought of serving because it suggests a hierarchy, it suggests someone being ruled over by another, and no one likes feeling lesser than someone else.
But this thinking misunderstands the true meaning of helping others. Being helpful is not about being obediently in service of someone, rather, it is about being of service to someone by providing value they need. Instead of being a submissive role, it is a heroic one where the service provider’s knowledge, skill, and effort help others succeed. In many ways, service is the ultimate leadership practice.
So, what actions can we take to transform our organizations into serving organizations and bring the business-success formula to life? Here are four steps.
- Align everyone around the true purpose of business, a mission of service.
- Develop leaders to listen to customers to learn about what areas need to improve and to employees to learn their ideas for taking action on improvement.
- Inspire everyone in the organization to serve everywhere, not just with customers but with each other.
- Optimize every delivery system (products, processes, people, and places) to be not only effective in getting their respective jobs done but hassle free in doing it.
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