You Can Be More Through Serving Others

The capitalism of the 1980s gave service to others a bad name. Obsessively self-serving, it tried to teach us that business and leadership were all about looking after number one, and that everything else would follow from that.

But if the past decade has taught us anything it’s that such self-centered practices, while undoubtedly still prevalent in some businesses, can be as crippling to the people who follow them as to those they prey on. The sub-prime collapse showed this sort of business at its worst.

Out of the ashes comes a new truth – that we are at our best when we are in the service of others.

External Benefits

There are many benefits to be gained from working hard for others, showing kindness, consideration and a willingness to go the extra mile for other people. Lisa Ryan has written eloquently about this on Talent Culture. Inspired by Harvey Mackay she cited his work in her own book. Given a chance to meet him she not only sang his praises but gave him a copy of her work. There was no benefit for her in this, she was just doing a kindness to someone who had inspired her.

A year later Harvey quoted Lisa’s book in his widely read columns. Her act of kindness had put her ideas out there and benefited her in return.

Serving others can often lead them to do a good turn for you, whether as a direct return or because they come to see your value. It’s the most tangible sort of reward.

Out of the ashes comes a new truth – we are at our best when in the service of others.

Internal Benefits

Self-esteem is a powerful force, both in driving our careers and in holding up our mental health. As Seth Godin has pointed out, it’s called self-esteem for a reason. It doesn’t come from external factors, from what people tell us and how they treat us. It comes from how we respond to those external factors and how we think about ourselves.

Doing something for others can be a great boost to self-esteem. It proves to us that we are not just selfish creatures, or worker ants caught up in the daily grind. It proves that we are capable of kindness, capable of goodness, capable of generosity.

That warm glow you feel when you know that you’ve helped someone, whether they realize it or not – isn’t that a reward in itself? And doesn’t the boost it gives you make you more productive?

Service as Part of Your Brand

So far we’ve discussed how we function as individuals – how we motivate ourselves and how we interact with others. But this can be about brands as well, and how they grow stronger through service.

Again, Seth Godin describes how this can be done. By empowering your employees to go further in the service of customers you achieve these ends on a business-wide scale.

We are capable of kindness, capable of goodness, and capable of generosity.

Employees given the resources and opportunity to fix niggling problems or to help out struggling customers will feel better about themselves and about the company they work for. That’s as close to self-esteem as a corporation gets.

And think of the customer response. If their needs are dealt with quickly and easily they will be impressed and keep coming back for more. Great service breeds great loyalty, and breeds the sort of enthusiastic customers who can even be called fans. Those customers, the ones who will go out and tell their friends about you, insisting that others give your service a try, those customers are worth more than any advertising campaign where good publicity is concerned.

Originally appeared on Switch and Shift December 4, 2014

Image Credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo