An Eye-Opening Study
A landmark case study of the Cleveland Clinic (CC) illustrates it perfectly. This institution, well known for their cutting-edge medical research and technology, in 2007 was plagued by low patient satisfaction and poor employee engagement in their 44,000 person staff. One could argue this kind of feedback is like the black mark of death to any large organization! Well, they knew they had to take major action and, after much research and consideration, launched a huge leadership development program to overturn these looming statistics. Can you guess what it was? They didn’t throw resources at enforcing the consequences of bad behaviors or incentivize leaders to act differently. Here’s what worked.
To remedy the situation they trained leaders from the top down on concepts of servant leadership. It took a few years to train all the leaders but soon enough employee engagement began to climb and subsequently, so did patient satisfaction, as measured by an objective third-party. Servant leadership is simple yet profound. It means sincerely putting the interests of our employees and the organization ahead of our own. It means putting aside self-interest and really caring about the success of other people, and acting accordingly. At first, many CC employees were skeptical if it would make a difference, including many of the leaders. As the practices of servant leadership became part of the culture, the positive shift in employee engagement and patient satisfaction followed.
Choose One Challenge and ACT
Here are some things you can do TODAY to practice servant leadership:
1. Let others see you serve
Get down in the trenches and do some of the gritty work for a bit among those you lead. Talk with them and get face to face with the obstacles that they have to overcome every day. For a servant leader, no job is beneath their pay grade.
2. Invest in your people
Do something fun or out of the ordinary with your team that will build bonding and trust. Go laser tagging or plan an after-hours go-kart race. Bring in a specialist (like me) who can provide a rich team-building activity. Spend time connecting with them and talk to them about non-work related topics. Show genuine interest in them as a person. You’d be surprised how much this will mean to your team and their desire to not only follow you but help you succeed because they actually like you as a human, not just their boss.
3. Let them know you care
Have they been asking for something recently? New office supplies, or a simple software upgrade? Have people complained the chairs hurt their backs or the copy printer needs replacing? Take action! Send out surveys asking one thing, “What can I do better to help you enjoy working here?” Take action on their suggestions! Show them you are listening and you care about their concerns. Their problems are your problems.
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” -Max DePree
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