Servant Leadership: More Than Thank You and More Valuable Than You Imagine
By Robin Brogdon, MA, President
We express our thanks and gratitude more in the last 30 days of year than at any other time. But if we’re really that grateful, shouldn’t we express it more frequently? Do you really want your team to wait 11 months before you acknowledge them in a meaningful way for the effort they put forth all year?
Practice owners and managers can remedy this, and at the same time make recruitment easier, retain staff longer, inspire your team to take greater initiative, even motivate everyone to go the extra mile.
How, you ask? It’s a concept called Servant Leadership – a leadership style in which the leader places the importance on the followers, not the power on top. The leader leads by serving consciously through inspiration, motivation, and exercising care for the well-being of the followers and the stakeholders, not on an accumulation of materialistic possessions.
While the idea of servant leadership goes back at least two thousand years, the modern servant leadership movement was launched in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf in his book, The Servant as Leader.
Seems many of the authors you read from the Best Seller list have understood this for a long time:
- “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”– Stephen R. Covey
- “Your number one customers are your people. Look after employees first and then customers last.”– Ian Hutchinson, author of People Glue
- “There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of GE
- “The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.”– Sybil F. Stershic, Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care.
- “Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”– Zig Ziglar
- “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”– Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup
If employees really are your greatest practice asset (not just your greatest expense), then this concept bears some real consideration. After all:
Employees are the key to your success. They deliver the majority of services, interact more often with clients and referring DVMs, and have a voice in the community that reaches far and wide, during their employment and after.
Recruiting is difficult. Attracting, hiring, nurturing, and keeping good employees is perhaps the greatest competitive challenge. But you must have a well thought out program and culture that demonstrates their value every day.
Losing staff costs money. Poor hires, disengaged employees, recruiting, and training are all expensive and have long-lasting effects. Worse yet, having a great employee move on to the competition is more than lost revenue. And there go the relationships they had with valued clients too, further eroding the ‘stickiness’ of clients to your practice.
Keeping staff engaged drives revenue. Contrary to popular belief, money is only one element of employment satisfaction and it is not at the top of the list. Great employees are a competitive advantage so keep them well informed about the goals and direction of the company. Opening doors and communication lines and holding regular meetings with employees will allow them to feel genuinely included in the day-to-day business.
Implementing Servant Leadership
Adopt a mindset of serving the needs of those who serve your clients. Ask yourself, “what do I need to do to empower, encourage, inspire, acknowledge, nurture my team on a daily basis? How can I help them create a fulfilling career at my practice?” Then work with your management team to ensure this is done systematically, person by person, department by department on a regular basis. Include the team in the execution of this concept. To best serve them, you need to know what it is that inspires them and gives them the courage to take risks and grow – which undoubtedly will build a strong practice.
Engage, encourage, reward. Understaffed? Need to add to the team? Bring the team into the recruitment process. Send a select few to attend a conference job fair to represent the practice. Teach them how to approach a prospective candidate. Show them how to present your practice in an attractive manner, highlighting all that differentiates you and makes for a unique work environment. For each successful hire that a team member initiates, reward them.
Include the team in the why, not just the how. Do your team members know what your annual goals are? Perhaps you purchased a new CT machine and it requires a minimum of 12 scans a month to breakeven based on all costs associated with the service. Do they know that? It would help them understand why you charge what you charge. Track the numbers and share the results at regular meetings. Let them know where the cases are coming from and what types of patients are utilizing the technology. They can then identify similar scenarios and help encourage the DVM on the phone to refer a case or the pet owner in the exam room to accept your recommendations. Empowering them with information, and why you make the business decisions you do, shows them you trust and respect them to help lead the practice.
There are endless ways you can serve your team – it’s a means to an end, sure. But it also makes for a really enjoyable workplace. Tap into the creativity of your team – and you’ll enjoy the ride a whole lot more.
At BluePrints, I’ve done my best to employ Servant leadership, and we certainly encourage all of our client practices to embrace an employee-centric style of management. That doesn’t give us an excuse to let the team run the show. It just provides an opportunity to share the responsibilities and to celebrate our successes as a team, because we all made it possible.
As we celebrate the holidays and our 10 year anniversary, we sincerely thank you for choosing us to be part of your success. Here’s to many more!
Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday season.