It’s Not My Job

Somebody sent me a picture with the painted line on the side of the road running around a downed tree.  Although it is funny, it is also disturbing.  I first laughed and then started to think about what created the thinking that goes along with “it’s not my job.”  As I ruminated, it occurred to me that it comes directly from a silo mentality that is selfish and actually works against teamwork and excellence.

Silos, the thinking that my department or job must be successful regardless of how it affects others, is a damning thing in business that reaches its apex when employees begin to do only what is in their job description or what helps them or their department reach their exclusive goals.  Silo-ing is really just an expression of selfishness, and this selfishness ultimately reaches customers with poor service and poor products.

The really funny thing is that managers are often where silos start.  When management promotes competition where sticks and carrots are wielded for performance, they send a message that selfish performance is what is necessary.

A good example is sports teams that incent players to reach certain individual performance goals.  We’ve all seen it when a basketball player begins to hog the ball and shoot whenever they get the chance because, if they make X number of points, they get a bonus.  The problem with this is that it often works in opposition to the team winning consistently.  The carrot may work for the individual but it is a stick to the team.

The best teams work together and share.  If one department needs help and another can spare people, money or expertise, they share for the good of the whole.  If one person needs help, others run to the rescue, for the good of the whole.  The question for you to ask yourself is, “why are we here, for me, my department, or the success of the mission?”  If the mission is the answer – and it always should be – then everything changes.

To really accomplish the mission, the culture needs to change.  The culture needs to focus on how each team member can look after the one next to them and help them.  This means managers helping employees and employees helping customers, and isn’t helping customers the business of business?  Think about this, are you incenting individual performance or mission accomplishment?  Are you sending a message of team unity or internal competition?  What are you doing to move away from the “it’s not my job to move the tree” mentality?


What’s your bottled water?

I was out in Hawaii once and the hotel I stayed in made a point of always offering bottled water to you as you left to go about your day.  I then noticed other things like placing umbrellas at doorways when it looked like rain.  What was going on?

It’s hot and humid in Maui and having water on you is just a good idea.  It’s easy to get dehydrated there, and sometimes without even knowing it.  The hotel just thought it a good idea to help people.

Rain storms creep up quickly in Hawaii and carrying an umbrella just may not occur to you.  Once again, the hotel thought it a good idea to help people.

What’s my point?  Well, what is your company’s bottled water, what is your umbrella?  What are you doing to step it up and help people even when they may not know they need the help?  Anticipating needs and offering to help with the next step after solving a problem or letting them know about something else they may have trouble with to alleviate another call, this is great service.

What’s your bottled water?

The First Step to Servant Leadership

What is the first step to being a servant leader?  Well, that is a loaded question.  I think it has a lot to do with how you define service.  If you define it as something close to slavery, then that will not get you very far.  If, however, you define it simply as helping others to achieve their goals, then we can make headway.

Many people have trouble with the idea of servant leadership because of the word servant.  They feel that serving is demeaning and has the image of groveling.  Servant leadership is not at all like that description, at least not to me.

Servant leaders are discerning and know when a traditional service role is necessary, where providing support is where they need to be to help others achieve their goals.  Servant leaders also know when to take a more forward role to guide and make decisions.  This requires a mindful approach where listening is key.

Servant leaders take the time to listen to their followers to see who needs support and who needs direction.  They fit their “style” to the people in order to move things forward.  They are flexible.

Servant leaders also do not shy away from conflict, they listen to understand and provide direction or re-direction when necessary.  This is not a groveling approach in the least.

Simply put, servant leadership is about a willingness to move away from the limelight to do whatever is necessary to help people succeed so that they can move toward whatever goal is set, whether that is a personal goal or an organizational one.

The key to me is that servant leaders are not consumed with themselves, they are, rather, consumed with the goal and with helping those around them get there together.  They are in the team not watching the team, they are fighting for the team not blaming the team, and they participate with the team whether it’s comfortable or not.

So, back to the question, what’s the first step?  I think it is to get in the right frame of mind, to be sure you can step away from the limelight, to make sure you are willing to do a lot of work and not get any credit, to share skills and knowledge, to give control rather than take it, and to stand up for your team even when it’s hard.  This is a commitment and it runs against tradition, it runs against our competitive, win-at-all-costs society and it demands humility.  Can you do it?  Can you sit second chair?  Can you cheer from the sidelines while someone else runs your play?  Think about it.  Do you have what it takes to be a servant leader?


I recently saw a story about the employees of a Michigan company who are enjoying an unexpected bonus; they are sharing in nearly $6 million handed out by their boss.

The CEO, a humble man, is the son of a garbage man, and like the greatest leaders, makes a point not to forget where he came from.  He knows what it is to work hard and live like an average person so he values the contributions of his employees and wants them to enjoy the same benefits he enjoys when the company does well.

Last month, the company was sold and a great deal of wealth was created.  However, unlike many self-absorbed business leaders, the CEO decided that the windfall was to be shared with every employee not just top brass.  The checks ranged from $500 to $50,000 based on years of service and job duties.

What has the fallout been?  Well, let quotes like this from one of the employees tell the story, “The identity of the company is to give, and [the CEO] encourages us to do that, to take what we’ve been given and pass it on.”

Talk about having things right, this is where businesses should be, leaders sharing the profits, employees paying it forward.  This is a world changer and a lesson to us all.  We are not here for us, we are here to make the place better for all.  Sharing is a great place to start.