There has been a steady amount of academic support, business experience, and personal testimony to the concept that when we view our role as serving others, we form a strong foundation to create value. Whether we are serving our customers, the teams we work on, members of our family, or people in our community, the idea of serving others helps solidify our efforts to accomplish great things.
After the basics of survival are met, psychologists would tell us that our next greatest need is to know we matter to someone or some cause greater than our own. The two primary ways we find opportunity in meeting this critical need is in our personal relationships and through our chosen career.
As we continue to build and strengthen our character, there is an important paradox in the role of serving others that we need to understand as we genuinely work to meeting this important personal need of knowing that we matter.
Long-term, personal relationships:
We have all heard the saying, “opposites attract.” It is definitely true in the scientific world and it also seems very common in the human condition with finding a mate.
We see the real-life examples of this all around us when we see the “organizer” who is paired with the bumbling slob. The “stable and secure” with the chaotic and risky. The “provider” being able to help the one in need. The “afflicted and struggling” being supported and encouraged to change by the martyr.
We all bring certain strengths to a relationship and we use those strengths in an honest, genuine attempt to serve and help our mate. Most healthy relationships are grounded in serving one another. This heart-felt commitment to serve and support our mate provides the foundation for meeting this need to know we matter to someone.
We feel secure in using our strengths to fill the gaps of our mate because it is a known skill for us and we are confident in our ability to deliver the service and meet the need.
We genuinely feel that by serving our mate in meeting these needs, we will satisfy our own need of being wanted, needed, and appreciated. Our mate will recognize our service and respond with acknowledgement that will confirm we matter.
Because of differences in how we show love and appreciation and in our personalities and communication styles, the paradox comes into play in two ways: Many times our mate will (1) Not “see” our intent to serve and will view our efforts as belittling or demeaning and (2) If they do “see” our intent to serve, they will respond in a manner that does not resonate positively with us. The eventual outcome is that we don’t feel appreciated and we fall short of meeting the need to know we mattered to someone else despite all of our genuine efforts to serve.
Overtime, with this disconnect, frustration sets in. We start to resent those qualities in our mate that we originally intended to use our strengths to serve and help. We quit serving, contempt sets in soon after, and we start talking about “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for a break-up.
The cycle continues as we find another mate with the same gaps as our first and we faithful try again to serve and lovingly fill those gaps with a known strength of our own.
Roles in the workplace:
We can find ample opportunity to meet the need to know we matter to a cause above ourselves in our chosen career field. The relatively consistent feedback loop of setting goals, measuring goals, and receiving recognition for achieving those goals seems to be a well-proven process of finding a place to serve and be recognized and appreciated for that service. In terms of meeting that strong emotional need to matter, we seem to find a good fit in our chosen career.
The challenge for leaders with a workforce and a marketplace that continues to grow more complex, the desired needs of people in our organizations vary a great deal and the traditional means of simple financial tools to recognize great effort seem to be losing their effectiveness. With a growing workforce that is being accustomed to “point and click” to get exactly what they want, when they want it, leaders have to be prepared to respond to these trends.
Despite the changes in workforce demographics, employees still possess a strong need to know they are making an impact and they matter to a cause bigger than themselves. When leaders fail to recognize the efforts of employees in a manner that resonates with them, their engagement weakens and high rates of turnover soon follow. Leaders have an increasingly important role to develop feedback mechanisms and reward systems that are flexible and dynamic to meet the needs of today’s diverse workforce.
As we all try to balance the effort between work and family, the Servant’s Paradox™ has a tendency to shift the balance over to work instead of relationships in the home when the need to know we matter is felt greater in the workplace than on the home front.
Ideas to Keep Us Moving Forward:
As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, below are a few action steps to take as we face the reality of the Servant’s Paradox™:
(1) Recognize the truth that we all have a need to know we matter to someone or a cause bigger than ourselves.
(2) Acknowledge that the vast majority of us genuinely focus on serving with our strengths to meet the needs of others in relationships and in organizations.
(3) Work to understand the different ways we feel appreciated in the home front and in the workplace. From the standpoint of a mate, understand the manner in which our mate feels loved and how they see that love communicated. From a leader-employee relationship, understand the most desired method of recognizing effort and accomplishment.
(4) Leverage the understanding of these differences and act on that knowledge to deliver in a manner that resonates in our personal relationships and in our roles in the workplace.
(5) Keep serving. It is the timeless, universal principle that will not disappoint in the long run. The long run is all that matters.
As we put effort into understanding differences and acting on that knowledge, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to sustain our efforts to serve others, for us to meet an important need to know we matter, and we will take a healthy step towards addressing the balance of needs being met in the workplace and on the home front.