As a leader I want to serve those that I am privileged to lead. In order to serve them you need to know them. Each year we hold a summer outdoor team event. It’s always a wonderful time of food, fun, relationship-building and learning. And each year we capture the event by putting photos from the event in a book that I keep on the small table in my office where I meet with people. I often use the book to tell people that you are only blessed to work with a group of people for a short time and then they, or you, move on.
I can look at the books from past events to remind me that very few of the people that attended the event just a few years ago are still on the team. Some of us may work together again, but some (from a book I looked at this week from 2008) have already retired, and one sadly has since died.
Here are 5 ways you can get to know your team members – whether it be at work, church, volunteer organizations or school:
- See them as people, not resources. I often hear people referred to as ‘resources’, and that always bothers me. When I began my career the department currently named Human Resources was called Personnel. I think this could reflect more than just a name change. See your team members as people, not just as an analyst, for example. Do you see them as just resources to help you accomplish your goals, or as people that you want to come alongside to help them reach their goals?
- Get to know them personally. Find out about their family, their favorite authors, sports teams, music, hobbies and their dreams and goals. Don’t just find out about their skills and experiences, but about them as people. Find out what is troubling them. Even though it seems that many have it all together, I believe that everyone is worrying about something, be it finances, health, relationships, family, etc. You need to know your team members personally to know this. Are you praying for your people?
- Find out how you can serve them. Servant leadership is something that I am passionate about, though not always good at. I love John Maxwell’s quote that the leader is there for the people, not the people for the leader. I like to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. Would your team members say that about you if asked?
- Spend time away from the job site with them. Now don’t misunderstand me here. Mel, my career mentor told me more than thirty years ago that if you are going to have only one relationship with your team members it has to be a professional one. I apply that advice – with exceptions. For example, I make it a personal policy not to ask a current team member to be a friend on Facebook. I also wouldn’t go to a movie or ballgame with them while they were current team members. However, I do pray for them and their families often. What I also try to do is arrange opportunities to see team members other than in just our monthly “One on One” and team meetings. An example is our monthly team birthday lunch. Each month, whoever is celebrating a birthday gets to choose the restaurant where the team will get together to celebrate their birthday. Not everyone attends, but it gives me an opportunity to see many of them away from the usual business situations. Can you think of some creative relation-building activities and off-site locations that you can do with your team?
- Show them that you care. Ask them about their vacation, how the recent class they attended was, what they did over the weekend, etc. If you know that they are waiting on health test results for themselves or a family member follow-up with them to show them your support. Another of my favorite John Maxwell quotes is that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Would your team members say that you care about them as people?
These are just a few ways you can better get to know your team members as a caring servant leader. There are many, many more. What suggestions do you have to share?