Leadership, love, and acts of service: How to encourage your team

Published on Charity Village
Date: 8th September 2021

Leaders support the work of their organizations when they are in service to their teams. Demonstrating appreciation of and for the human resources, the people, who create the foundation of your organization is a loving act and an essential layer of the service delivery model.

When people feel loved and appreciated, they grow in their receptivity, ability to contribute creatively, and capacity for transformation. If there is growth required, that does not happen in an environment of punishment or neglect. Instead, healing and change flourish in loving and supportive spaces.

Quality of service is directly related to the wellbeing of service providers, who are the human vessels through which your organizational mandate, mission, and vision is brought to life. Without them there is no service. And without your dedicated service to your team there is no quality service in the world.

One of the key actions of service-focused leaders is to encourage, which requires that we have faith in another. We see others in their highest potential light. Even when they might feel like they don’t have what it takes, we hold the vision that they do. Encouragement gives the benefit of the doubt, believes without evidence, and cares without condition. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Let’s explore the many ways leaders can show love to their teams through the act of service we call encouragement.

Encourage wellness

Wellness has become one of those buzzwords used too often and without enough depth to effect real change. Wellness is a subjectively defined and personally experienced state of being. It can only be truly understood in a holistic and interconnected manner. We are complex beings, multi-dimensional in nature and inextricable from our environment. Wellness is not achieved through a checklist of tasks to be done daily. Rather, it is a certain kind of harmony that we emerge into ~ and slip out of ~ as we create balance, within and without. It has more to do with listening, feeling, and responding than with doing.

Most workplaces pat themselves on the back for ensuring team members take breaks from work, for offering a few vacation days a year, sick time, and holidays. The focus is on getting away from work to be well as opposed to wellness at ~ or more importantly, in ~ work. Even integrating practices such as meditation hours, personal growth workshops, and yoga breaks within the workplace still implies that feeling well at work means taking breaks from it.

What if we learned to enjoy the process of our service in the world?
What would it do to our experience of wellness if we looked for joy and fulfillment within the act of service itself?

It would certainly provide the opportunity to spend more hours in a day immersed in the experience of wellness.

As leaders, it’s important to expand your personal definition of wellness and find out how your team interprets it in their lives.

Many come to vocations of service with a desire to give and offer something of value and meaning to others. While this has the potential to become draining and exhausting, the desire to extend self and make a difference is often a key element of personal wellness. Whether we call it a sense of purpose or a source of inspiration, personally meaningful contribution feels good.

Encourage contribution

Within the parameters of your agency mission and mandate, each person offers their own unique expertise. You are likely familiar with the notion of science and art as elements of service provision. Perhaps your organization offers specific programs grounded in evidence- or research-based principles. Your team operates within those structures and protocols to deliver the programs and services you are funded to provide. How they do that and the personal essence they bring to their work with others is the art of the process.

Both elements are important in the provision of high-quality service. But when it comes to staying connected to a sense of inspiration and passion, the art of the matter trumps all.

It is in the art of service delivery that your team members are able to express themselves, offer their particular energy, focus in on the aspects of the work they find inspiring, and stay excited. These are the team members that consistently go above and beyond without burning themselves out ~ unless they feel blocked or their efforts are futile.

Create space for that exploration and for dialogue, both individually and as a team, to expose the wealth of artistry that lies waiting for expression. Not only does this form of contribution exponentially elevate the quality of the service and programs you offer, but it also enhances beyond measure the health of your team, both individually and collectively.

Encourage personal responsibility

There is no way you can know what lies within the artistic heart of each person you work with until you take the time and space to find out. You aren’t expected to guess or to provide direction in terms of their artistic expression. Rather, it’s important that team members articulate their own personal awareness of these traits and identify how they would like to employ them in the practice of their service.

Initiate regular discussions with your team to learn more about who they are personally and how that aligns with their professional expression. Be bold and allow for the development of intimate relationships with your team members in a way that supports authenticity and transparency ~ a true embracing and celebration of diversity and creativity.

How do we get intimate with our colleagues and coworkers, you might ask? Intimacy on this level is about the capacity to “see” into the hearts of others while also being willing to be seen. This means as a leader, you go first. You pave the way by demonstrating your courage to be seen, to be wrong, and to be real. This creates a space for others to do the same.

Personal responsibility can be described as the capacity to respond. When we talk about the development of artistry in service, it is important to recognize that each person holds responsibility in the identification of their personal style and the opportunities for that expression. You want your team members to tell you what they love to do and how they wish to bring that talent into your organization. But the truth is that the heart of the artist is often a very vulnerable place and must be met with the wisdom and gentleness of a compassionate leader.

As a leader, it is your personal responsibility to step into any arena you would invite your team members into. If you aren’t willing to go there, don’t expect them to be either. It wouldn’t feel safe.

Encourage the creation of safe spaces

Each of us holds personal responsibility for our sense of safety and security. As we establish that within, we are better equipped to create a safe foundation within our organizations, collectively. A group of insecure and frightened individuals cannot create safe communities. But, not everyone has access to the same tools.

As a leader, I encourage you to challenge yourself in terms of your own sense of safety and security in the workplace.

Do you find safety in the status of your role or job title or do you feel it in the depths of self-trust and a deep embodiment of your expertise?
Do you rely on the authority attached to your position or the personal authority you have garnered through your lived experience?

Align yourself with true authority and personal security while releasing any attachments to false representations.

Understand that some team members may not feel connected to their personal sense of authority or security. It will be up to you to encourage this as part of your relational activities both one-on-one and in groups. You will do this by showing your interest in who they are and how you can support their expression in the organization.

Safe and secure spaces in the workplace have never been more important. We are at a crucial time in the history of our world when it comes to the integration of diversity and commonality. We can only move forward if we are all pulling in the same direction and we can only come to discover that through a process of consensus. Everyone must be on board. Everyone must know their part and respect the role of others. Value must be placed on every contribution. Every voice must be heard.

We cannot blame each other for not feeling safe enough to speak our truth or engage in sensitive conversations. We cannot shirk the responsibility for our sense of security onto others. And we must guard against the tendency to overlook any role we might play in making the workplace a precarious space.

Safe spaces not only require us to grow, they support it. The creation of healthy, inspired, responsive, and safe spaces is a collective process requiring leadership, participation, trust, risk, and love.

Trust me, it’s worth it.

This is the sixth and final article in a six-part series on Love and Service. We invite you to read the firstsecond, third, fourth, and fifth articles in the series.

Elizabeth Bishop is the creator of The Conscious Service Approach. She regularly facilitates workshops based on the principles of the approach both online and in person. Elizabeth can be reached at www.elizabethbishopconsulting.com, on twitter at @askelizabethb, and Facebook and Linkedin at Elizabeth Bishop Consulting.

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