We often display a natural tendency to put our own needs before others'...
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. As Psychology Today's Lisa Firestone notes, "Maintaining a certain regard for ourselves and engaging in self-compassion and self-care are actually fundamental to creating a good life for ourselves and the people who matter most to us."
Focusing on our own needs can protect us from burnout and other negative consequences. However, in the leadership world, this focus often crosses into a decidedly more selfish territory. In today's complicated workplace, if you don't put the needs of others before your own, you will lose in the long-term. If losing in the long-term isn't big enough, when you put the needs of others before your own as a leader you do two big things.
Create an inspiring place to work.
A leader who puts others first creates an uplifting, motivating culture that inspires confidence among their employees. As Marcel Schwantes writes, such individuals "believe and trust in their people -- their strengths, abilities, potential, and commitment to the job -- before they have to earn it. These leaders maintain a high view of their people, show them respect, and listen receptively to their needs in a nonjudgmental way."
This doesn't mean that you're going to become best friends with your employees ...
What it does mean, however, is that you will be continuously engaged in making sure that each team member has the resources they need to perform their job effectively. It means you will create a safe environment where everyone feels valued.
When you show genuine care for your employees' needs, as opposed to an obsession with the bottom line, you will enjoy better retention rates and productivity as everyone buys into the company culture.
Improve the potential for widespread impact.
When a leader focuses on their own needs, they limit their influence. Focusing on the needs of others is just good business sense. This concept became clear during a recent email conversation with Geoffrey Leslie, president, and CEO of Screems.
"Affecting change on a level beyond profits is how businesses can make a lasting difference. For example, this is the goal behind our Major Appliance Power Station (MAPS), by helping communities enjoy clean energy with a household device. We want to have an impact for the greater good. As a business leader, your influence can and should extend to your employees, your customers, and your community. But this only happens if you put aside selfish motivations."
Leaders who put others first want to see them succeed. They understand that an employee's success doesn't threaten or diminish their position.
Instead, it creates new opportunities for growth. Taking on the role of a coach or mentor may not directly benefit your career, but it can help a new employee improve their skills so they can become a stronger contributor to the team.
When you focus on fulfilling employees' needs, they will be better able to meet their responsibilities toward your customers, putting your brand in a better position to reach its goals.
Making the shift permanently.
Adapting to a "people-first" mindset may be a bit of a challenge, but it can be done.
Start by getting to know your employees. Understand their challenges and concerns, as well as the things they're excited about. The better you get to know your team, the easier it will be to identify ways you can improve their experience in the workplace.
Remember, even small changes can make a big difference. More comfortable office seating may seem like an unnecessary expense, but if it helps employees stay focused on their work, it will yield far higher dividends than you might imagine.
You should also emphasize positive interactions to boost morale and help employees feel confident about their place in your organization. Even when things go wrong, providing negative feedback in a manner that offers direction and guidance will be far more effective than tearing someone down for causing you to miss a monthly goal.
The more you do to foster a positive, supportive atmosphere, the easier it will be for employees to feel like they can bring up concerns or new ideas. Giving everyone a voice by prioritizing their needs will cultivate a productive environment that allows everyone to succeed.
Building a better tomorrow.
Putting others' needs ahead of your own may feel counterintuitive. But to become a successful business leader, it is a crucial trait that you will need to develop. By focusing on the needs of your employees, you can inspire better performance. In LearnLoft's Ultimate Leadership Academy, I teach a simple daily habit to help our coaching clients do this. It's called PTS, which stands for Prepare to Serve. Anytime you change an environment, say to yourself PTS. Without much thought, your actions in the new environment will be focused more on those you are going to be spending time with versus your own self-interests.
As you identify and prioritize customer needs, you will be more likely to provide a life-changing product or service that will stand the test of time. Each of these changes requires that you put your priorities in the proper perspective. When you focus on people, rather than numbers, you will be far better positioned to achieve the desired results.