Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Servant Leadership Practice--Reach Out to Another

Open door "policies" are wonderful. They allow access to key decision-makers. Even better is an "Open Tour" practice. Instead of people coming to you, you go to them. One practice I learned from a mentor was to walk around daily to greet everyone. The walk-around wasn't just a "drive-by Hi!" either. In some early feedback I got from the crew, I was told to slow down when I come by. Intended to be a leisurely walk-through, I'd often stop to chat with people--different people each day. After a while, I was doing this morning and afternoon to catch different shifts. Having done it enough, I learned that I could spot when people were having good days or not; I could tell if they had profound success or were on the point of despair, about either of which I would ask them to share with me. Often I was able to help find a solution to a problem or point them to the appropriate person from whom to get help. Also, I often heard about the wonderful initiative people exhibited on behalf of our customers.

One day, I learned from a woman that she was planning to go part-time. Her son was being deployed to the Middle East. Her addict daughter-in-law wasn't capable of caring for the two preschooler grandchildren. She wanted to provide care for them while he was gone, and she planned to share the duties with the other grandparents. When her son came back, she would return to full-time. A few days later, at lunch with my executive counterpart, he was sharing that she had asked to go part-time. He and the manager of that area were going to deny the request because the company was on over-time. They needed every hour they could get in that production area. I suggested that he talk to the woman to find out why she was requesting a reduction in hours. I wasn't at liberty to share her desire, but I told him that I thought he'd understand what she was trying to do when he found out. I believed he would be supportive of her intent. The next day, he talked to her, and he was supportive.

By reaching out, being available in another person's space, we improved the lives of our employee...and her grandchildren. We provided peace of mind for her son when he was thousands of miles away. We created a loyal family to our company.

She might have come into my office. She might have gone to the manager or the other VP to share her story. However, it showed more concern for her that we went to her.

Today, reach out to someone. If you're not scheduled for a meeting, go find some employees at their workstations and talk to them before plunging into another spreadsheet or batch of emails. Let them have the open door while you're on your open tour.

For C12 and Truth@Work members, consider the difference between John the Baptist and Jesus. The first was in one location and lots of people came to him. The other traveled around the country, and outside of his home country, to meet people where they were at. One example: a Samaritan woman (soon to be evangelist) met Jesus while she was going about her daily work, because he was traveling through and stopped at the well. Employees will hear "about" you and about your desires but it's better if they get to know you. Maybe they'll become your evangelists for how you're trying to grow your company.

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