As I listened to Kaitlin Stoddard from HubSpot share the biggest lesson she has learnt as a Customer Centric Leader, I realised that there can be nothing more engaging for employees and leaders in organisations than great customer service – be it for internal or external customers.
Why? I believe we exist in this world to serve others and that’s what customer service is all about! Our purpose is to be of service to our family, friends and the community in which we live. Raising a child, helping a mate out or joining the Surf Life Savers club – we get a kick from helping others. This is what creates fulfilment and enriches our lives.
So how can we bring the same feeling into the workplace to create a sense of purpose and improve employee engagement?
At work, I’ve learnt that I need to put my agenda aside and find a way to of achieving what I need, not by taking, but by giving. I need to achieve my objectives by helping my stakeholders achieve their’s first. This has shifted my thinking from being outcome focused to being service focused. I now put less pressure on myself and my engagement has increased when I go to meetings because my only intention is to help someone. And when I do so unconditionally, the outcome follows!
The key to bringing a sense of fulfilment to my work has been by creating deeper connections at work – being vulnerable and authentic in my conversations have certainly helped! I can only care about a stakeholder if I can relate to them, which in turns helps me better serve their needs.
So how can you build deeper relationships with your stakeholders to go beyond what is expected of you and feel a sense of fulfilment when helping them? How can you create a feedback loop where you can see the impact your work is having on others so you know you are making a difference?
It can be challenging to make all aspects of our work meaningful but if we can constantly remind ourselves why we do what we do and who we are serving, it might take our engagement to the next level?
I recently met with the highly energetic Tim Ebbeck, the former CEO of Oracle Australia who is a big follower of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who said “To lead the people, walk behind them.” Tim will be speaking at our Authentic Leadership event on November 30th.
In this video, Tim shares the importance of leaders standing up and speaking up for what they believe in . At a recent contracting gig I did, one of the leaders thought my dress code was casual and not professional enough (I was wearing jacket and tie but it was not a one colour dark suit!)
I’m pretty sure I didn’t look like a slob and more importantly, I believe it’s how I treat and care for my client that determines my relationship with them and not if I wear a suit or jacket/tie! Yet I couldn’t say that. I just froze, nodded my head and walked away. Looking back, I realised that it was because of my fear of confrontation which prevented me from speaking my truth and standing up for what I believed in.
Since then, I’ve asked myself how I could have been more authentic in my approach and I came to realise that I needed to be more curious and try and understand why the leader felt that way. Maybe he had had a bad experience with a customer who had given him a hard time?
As Tim puts it, I’ve learnt to be “firm on the issue and soft on the person’ which has helped me speak my truth. Finding that inner strength to speak up has come through lots of silent reflection time and better understanding my fear of confrontation, which was because my parents used to fight about money when I was a kid. I’m learning that being authentic is truly an art – too much can be damaging and not enough, can have no impact.
So how authentic are you with your team or stakeholders? Are you always sharing what is on your mind and not listening enough? Or are you not sharing what’s really on your mind? Can you “be real” with them without rocking the boat? And most importantly are you aware of the fears that might be holding you back from speaking your truth?
After all, isn’t great leadership about how we have the tough conversations?
I asked one of our other speakers Mark Bilton (ex)MD of Gloria Jeans Coffee and MD of Thought Patrol to share his perspective on authentic leadership in a short video which you can view here.
Listening to Mark made me really reflect on creating a culture of honour. I had mentioned in my earlier post how I wished I had a closer relationship with my father and because I rarely got to spend time with him growing up, I only chose to see the side of him which I didn’t like. All his friends would tell me what a great guy my dad was and his sense of fairness in business.
Until I understood myself better, I was not able to honour or acknowledge him for his part in making me the leader I am today. Since his passing, I have now learnt to honour and acknowledge his great qualities which I have adopted.
This process also helps remind me of the importance of honouring the great work that my stakeholders do with their teams
and clients. As I write this, I realise that HiB is about honouring great leaders and thinkers who truly care about people in the workplace. To create a culture of honour in the workplace, all our contributions need to be acknowledged and great leaders are doing it with their teams and stakeholders all the time.
So how do you honour your team or stakeholders? Do you acknowledge their contribution in meetings or emails? And if so, how often?
There is no such things as too much acknowledgement!
I caught with Steven Pozel, who is former CEO of the Australian Design Centre and will be speaking at the Authentic Leadership conference
I asked him in this video what authentic leadership meant to him and what was the biggest lesson he had learnt as a leader.
As I thought about our conversation, I realised how important it was for leaders to find time for themselves and for their teams to reflect. “Creating space” is critical to generate new ideas to complex challenges and yet we are more busier than ever!
When I look back at all the ideas I’ve come up with, most of them came to me whilst meditating, taking an extended walk in the park at lunch time or walking by the beach. Ideas come when I’m NOT working! None of my great ideas came sitting in front of the computer! Even Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, schedules in reflection time in his diary to help him process his thoughts.
So with all this talk about innovation and creativity in the workplace, how do you find time to let ideas flow? How do you find time for your team to reflect and be inspired to generate new ideas? Do you create time to play and have fun so there is less pressure on ‘doing’ and more on ‘being’?
I had the pleasure of connecting with Lisa Forrest, who is speaking at the Authentic Leadership Conference on November 30th in Sydney.
At age 16, Lisa was the captain of the Australian swimming team at the 1980 Summer Olympics as well as winning
two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. Here is a short video where she shares her perspective on what authentic leadership means to her and what is the biggest lesson she has learnt in her career as an Olympian.
What struck me when listening to her perspective, was the importance of compassion in the workplace. Not just with our work colleagues but for ourselves.
Being so passionate about my work, I can sometimes forget the importance of having compassion on myself and relax a bit! It’s easy for me to work in the evenings and weekends because there is “so much to do” and give myself a hard time when things don’t go to plan.
I’m now learning that to truly be compassionate with my stakeholders, I need to be compassionate to myself first. I need to remember to indulge in some “doing nothing” time during the week to truly balance out all the extra time I put in. I need to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can and that fun time is equally important as work time. And most importantly, I need to learn from my mistakes rather than be too hard on myself for making them.
Becoming more aware of how I treat myself when the pressure is on, I’m able to better understand how hard it must be for my stakeholders to deal with the pressures they have. And as I get better at accepting my mistakes, it helps me accept the mistakes of others and understand what they are going through.
With so much to do at work, what does it mean to be compassionate to yourself? Have you ever taken an hour off and went for a walk in the park? Do you have such high expectations of yourself that sometimes you struggle to meet them? And is your expectations of your stakeholders based on the standards you have imposed on yourself or based on what they can do?