You Gotta Serve Someone
post # 141 — July 25, 2006 — a Careers, Client Relations post
Whenever a superior, a customer or client gives you something to work on, you have their affairs, their reputation and their future in your hands. If you mess up, the embarrassment you will feel is nothing compared to the mess you will land them in. You are being trusted with someone else’s baby. Deserve it. Being good is important, being trusted is essential.
You might view a project as small; perhaps a fee at the lower end of what you are used to, or not as exciting as other projects. However, the project could be the largest and most important thing the individual at the client company has handled in his/her career.
It can be difficult to accept the “server” mentality. Dale Carnegie once wrote that “You’ll have more fun and success by helping other people achieve their goals than you will by focusing on your own goals.”
When I first read that, as a college student in England, I was shocked. It sounded like communism, or at a minimum, a self-sacrificing religious principle. However, as I progressed through the real world, I realized Carnegie was right. His principle is actually the vary core of exchange capitalism: I will give you what you want if you give me what I want.
To make this work, you must be sincere in trying to help the other party. It’s not just a bargaining process (“You give me this, and I’ll give you that, and then we’ll go our separate ways.”) Human beings don’t work like that. We look for relationships, even in minor transactions.
If I hire somebody to do something for me (clean my house, handle my divorce, do my taxes, diagnose and cure my ailments), I don’t want them to focus only on the bare minimum of fulfilling the contractual terms. If they do, I’m going to focus on paying them the bare minimum – and no-one’s going to be happy.
What I’m looking for is someone who wants to help me, and will deal with whatever arises. Such a person will get paid well, hired again, and promoted, and referred to others. If I hire you, never forget you’re there to serve me. If you’re not willing to do that, I don’t want you.
Another key attitude is commitment. Commitment is not numbers of hours you work, the sales you generate or the rates you charge. It means placing other people – the client and your colleagues – first in your professional life. Commitment means attention to details, not because you might get caught, but because you want to provide the best product or service available and you relish the opportunity to step up and take on responsibility.
It’s the paradox of professionalism: the more you put yourself first, the less people want to work with you and the less of life’s rewards you get. The more you focus on serving others, the more they want to be with you and give you what you want. People (bosses, colleagues, clients, subordinates) can spot immediately those who bring a truly professional attitude to work, and reward those who do.