Sunday, March 20, 2011

Servant Leadership Practice--Protect Another

I woke up from a nightmare last night. It wasn't a scary monster kind of dream. But I was afraid nonetheless. I won't bore with you all the details. Suffice it to say, that it ended with me holding a fictitious, adolescent nephew in one arm to keep him away from tormenting the kitten in my other hand. In my youth-oriented pedagogy, I tried explaining moral codes, such as the Golden Rule as its commonly called: "Do to others what you want them to do to you" or "...for others...for you...". I ended with explaining how it's an obligation of people who are bigger and stronger to protect those who are smaller and kittens. What scared me is that, in my dream, this seemed to be the first time this imaginary nephew of mine had heard anything like this, or had a role model who exhibited any such code.

How does this apply to business? Easily in my mind. Those of us who are stronger, smarter, richer, more powerful--especially more powerful--have a duty to protect those who are not. We are not here to bully others.

How do we bully others? Often in my opinion. We bully others when we put them down in various ways. We might speak ill of them when they're not around. (We've heard this before.) We also bully others when we use our power to get our way, allowing very little choice for the other person. We don't allow others to have the same privileges we have because they don't have our title or office location. We bully when we decide what's best for others, whether it's in benefits (like how much comes out of the paycheck and into their 401(k) plan, or which medical insurance plan works best for them). You're bullying when you decide how much of the profit-sharing they get "today" versus how much they can put away for retirement. (Because your people are at different life stages, no one-size, single decision fits all.) When we decide overtime is more important, because of the customer, than any family event, we are bullying.

When we flaunt our wealth or our intelligence, we inflict emotional or psychological damage to a person's esteem. We are saying we're better and you're "stupid" as a person or in the choices you've made for purchases. This is literally the definition of putting them down. We are condescending to them. When we rationalize why we favor one person over another, we are not protecting the other. When we are silent as others do any of these actions, we are not protecting the other.

Today, guard your tongue at work. Think of others and act on your duty to protect--because you're more powerful, more intelligent, richer or more experienced--for those who are not in the same position. Invite others to provide input on considered changes to benefits.

For C12 and Truth@Work members, Paul challenges us not to threaten the people who work for/with us (Eph. 6). Think about how you might be bullying them, pointing out mistakes in a demeaning way. We are called to guard our tongue. It's tough. We'll make mistakes but ask your team to help you by pointing out when you have. I've had that help in the past, and it was worthwhile when someone pointed out that I had hurt someone because I said "You know better than this...". I repaired the relationship. I think the team got stronger too.

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