Social Awareness and the Importance of Service OrientationAdd bookmark
Social Awareness is a person's ability to consider the perspectives of other individuals, groups or communities and apply that understanding in their interactions. It is composed by: empathy, organizational awareness and service orientation.
Service orientation is the last missing piece for building social awareness. It is described by Daniel Goleman as “the ability to recognize and meet customer’s needs”. However, in this article I will explore a broader perspective of the concept, and not just to focus on the undoubted importance of serving our clients and customers.
Service-oriented people focus on anticipating, recognizing and meeting peoples’ needs no matter if they are clients or not. They make themselves available for others and care about them. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that they are more likely to feel empathy and compassion for individuals around them.
People with this emotional skill can adapt or change situations so that they can provide an opportunity to support others in their workplace. Furthermore, some questions come to our minds when reflecting about service orientation: How much do you assist your co-workers? Are you eager to help others to succeed or eager to reach your own success? How much are you recognized for this service ability?
In the everyday world around us, services are and have been a commonplace for our society. Any person carrying out a distinct task in support of others is providing a service. Any group of individuals collectively performing a task which focuses on the collective good, also demonstrates a service delivery.
There are people who claim that the future is collective as we do not have a “Planet B”. In this perspective, a serve-first mindset and the service orientation skill are crucial to transform and develop a more inclusive environment.
Serve-first or collaborative mindset is about making situations a win-win for all participants. A leader with this attitude goes beyond of simply distributing tasks to their employees, and instead they think: “How can I help them to succeed?”
It is common sense that organizations hire professionals based on their mindsets (attitudes) which are important to develop its businesses and invest on the development of new skills later. In this regard, have you questioned yourself regarding the mindset you bring to work or what you need to develop or change in the future?
In the book “Leaders Eat Last”, Simon Sinek explains that leaders put their own interests aside; they go first into danger and they face the unknown to protect their people. In his view, this is what means to be a leader. Likewise, there is a clear link between his definition and the servant leadership concept developed by Robert K. Greenleaf.
The other aspect of service orientation is relationship management. This means you can use yours and others' emotions to build strong, effective and lifelong relationships with people around you.
Servant leadership is not a leadership style or methodology. It is a mindset that complements other leadership types as the democratic and transformational ones. As a servant leader, you put your employees first, focusing on their needs before considering your own.
- K. Greenleaf said in his essay “The Servant as Leader” that "the servant-leader is servant first." What we can conclude is that the “desire to serve” is a key distinguishing characteristic of a servant-leader. However, it is not about being servile, it is about identifying and meeting the needs of co-workers, clients and communities.
Nevertheless, it is relevant to mention that servant leadership mindset is problematic in hierarchical and autocratic cultures. In these organizations, it is expected that managers and leaders take all the decisions and in this sense, servant leaders may fight to earn respect.
Service Orientation Skill Development
Service orientation is not an isolated skill. To develop this ability and the serve-first mindset you will need, as a basis, a set of other skills listed below:
- Empathy. The ability of understanding another person's view and feelings. In each interaction you have with others, it is a chance to learn new ways of thinking, to share feelings and to make a difference by contributing and helping others grow.
- Adaptability. The ability to change quickly and respond to new ways of working. People are different and they have different needs, which will require from you different approaches. You should be able to handle surprises, expectations and adapt accordingly.
- Communication. Ensure you convey a clear message to all. Use positive language, stay cheerful no matter what and never end a conversation without closing the subject.
- Trustworthiness. The ability to lead ethically or “walk the talk”. Refers to a concrete action, taking risks on the behavior of the other party. Focus on building an integrity and values-based organization.
- Knowledge. Stay informed enough to respond and know where to turn if the questions become too technical for you to answer. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” either, people around you will appreciate your honesty.
Service Orientation begins with a natural feeling and choice to serve others, because good leaders understand the importance of their people and that they should come first. As R. K. Greenleaf once said….
“Servant leadership begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then, conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
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