A Serving Heart Doesn’t Always Translate Into Serving Actions—3 Things to Watch For

boss with employeeThis Coaching Tuesday guest post is by Lynn McCreery.

For many of us, true leadership is about being purpose and values driven and putting the needs of those we lead above our own.  We want the heart of a servant leader to be at the core of how we live our lives.

Sometimes it is easy for us to assume that because we want to serve, that we know how to serve.  In our desire to help others we sometimes do not take time to understand what they really need.

Let me give you a personal example. Years ago I was in a conversation with my husband about his job.  He was very frustrated and unhappy.  Trying to be helpful, I went into my consultant role offering what I thought were good suggestions.  His response to me was, “You teach everyone else to listen, why don’t you.”  Ouch—obviously not what he needed even though I was acting with a servant heart.

In Situational Leadership® II (SLII®) we teach leaders how to diagnose the development level of individuals then adjust their leadership style to best serve the needs of the people they work with. We learn that if we go too fast or try to control what someone else does we become, in essence, a micromanager.  Because someone seems to be unsure or has a loss of confidence, we step in thinking we know the answers.  Instead of helping, this often ends up further eroding the other person’s confidence in themselves and their trust in us.  Or we just plain make them mad, like I did with my husband.

To get better at turning our good intentions into effective actions, here are three action steps you can take to make sure your actions are aligned with your intentions.

  1. Listen more. Listen with the intent to learn and hear what is truly being said and requested. Be attentive with your body language and/or tone as you acknowledge what you have heard.
  1. Take time to fully understand. Explore and ask questions to make sure that you truly understand what the person is talking about. Make sure you are not making assumptions and focusing on what you think they are saying, rather than on what they are truly saying.  Always acknowledge the other person’s point of view.
  1. Ask for permission to offer direction. This may be the most critical. Don’t assume you know all the answers.  If you have ideas or thoughts about what the person might do, ask them if it is OK for you to make a suggestion.  They may need to just vent and not be looking for advice at all.

Being a servant leader requires action.  It is about what we do and what we say in relationship to others. In my husband’s case he already knew what he wanted to do.  He did not need me giving him advice.  He just needed to vent. So whether at work or home, when we think we are serving, maybe it is time to just listen and discover what will really assist the other person in meeting their needs. Thus we turn a “serving heart” into “serving actions.”

About the Author

Lynn McCreeryLynn McCreery is a Senior Consulting Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies.

4 thoughts on “A Serving Heart Doesn’t Always Translate Into Serving Actions—3 Things to Watch For

  1. Pingback: A Serving Heart Doesn’t Always Translate Into Serving Actions—3 Things to Watch For | Organizational Strategies

  2. What a great reminder Lynn. I don’t know how many times I’m venting to someone and as I am they are throwing out unsolicited suggestions. It’s frustrating and makes me want to shut down. Definitely not of service. But of course I do the same thing – put my Ms Fix It hat on – easy to do. Just being a listening for people is such a gift.

  3. I learned a valuable lesson years ago. My son had called me from college, telling me about a problem or situation that he was in. I was ready to jump in and do what all dads do. Tell him what to do and how to do it. However, for some reason, I paused and then asked him if he needed me to do anything, or if he was just venting. is response was; “I just needed to talk to someone”.

    I need to remember this more often.

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