Servant Leadership

Posted by | September 15, 2011 | Small Biz Talk, The Obvious | 4 Comments

I subscribe to a monthly publication called TableTalk by Ligoneer Ministries. If you are one who enjoys reading the Bible and wants to dig deeper, I’d highly recommend TableTalk. Even if you have no interest in the Bible, the following ideas might be very helpful to you. During my morning reading recently, I was intrigued by the topic of discussion. It was called, “Leading By Example” and based on a Bible passage from Ephesians 6:9,

“Masters, do the same to them [employees], and stop your threating, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with Him.”

TableTalk ends each devotional with what is called Coram Deo (living before the face of God). Let me quote the devotions complete Coram Deo, since it cannot be summarized,

“President Eisenhower once observed that, “leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Good leaders do not lead by maintaining uncertain, ever-changing standards or by demeaning good workers. Instead, they serve those whom they supervise by encouraging them and setting a vision that all can seize and run with gladly.”

My Dad’s Example

Today’s study was encouraging to me as it reminded me how my dad led by example when I worked with him at Chism Brothers Painting. He is not a difficult business owner. He shows respect and kindness to his employees. He makes sure that each employee’s voice is heard and that he is approachable at any time. One important thing my dad did while I worked with him is he’d have regular breakfast meetings one on one with his crew leaders. I knew his painters appreciated this time with him. Every now and then a painter would think there was a better position or job out there in the world and they’d go exploring. Many times, those men came back asking for their jobs back.

I remember one man in particular who decided to work for my dad’s competitor. It lasted 2 very long weeks before he begged for his job back. My dad gave it back, and this man still works for Chism Brothers many years later. Once back, he realized just how well the leadership led by example. He felt that he was part of a team. My dad actually got paint on his hands now and then. The men respected him because he was a superstar painter. He also shared his vision and ideas regularly with his employees. He’d ask for their feedback and insight when making certain business decisions. He also rewarded them generously for their hard work. I’ve spoken to some business owners that only give bonus money to employees if they brought a job in under budget. Although my dad watches the numbers carefully, he did not nickel-and-dime his staff. I think that was the reason his company was profitable at the year’s end even with a few unprofitable jobs. His painters knew he was a fair and honest man so they worked hard for Dad.

Marketing and Leadership

One thing I’ve discovered the past few years is a disconnect between most contractors and their employees. Most employees just want to swing a hammer or put paint on the walls. They’d rather not put door hangers around the neighborhood, ask for a referral or look for extra work. In most cases I think it is because many of them just think of themselves as technicians: “I’m just a painter!” or “Ah I’m just a guy who installs cabinets.”

So how do you change this attitude in your employees? My suggestion is to follow my dad’s policy: lead by example, share your vision, connect with your employees just as much as you do with your customers. Spend the time it takes to focus on involving your employees in more aspects of your business and they will begin to play a bigger part in your company. Your field employees do not typically intimidate homeowners. They are the ones who can really connect and get more business. If you reward them for their efforts and you make them feel important, I believe you’ll see your company grow. Not all employees are motivated by money, so find out what motivates them: try to shape their work experience in a way that they want to do the things you ask of them.

How do you motivate employees in your business? What are your thoughts about this topic? I’d love to hear your story and feedback.

For Further Reading on Leading by Serving, see John 13:12-15

About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.

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