A few years ago I shifted my stance at work from “being an expert” to “being there to serve”. This small shift in intention changed my life significantly. No longer did I spend time in meetings worrying about saying something valuable. I could relax. And then a funny thing happened, my presence became much more impactful.
What does it mean to “be there to serve”? When I first made the shift, I was asked to facilitate a planning workshop when someone completely hijacked the meeting to solve an open process issue. Normally I would have pushed hard to get back to planned agenda, but instead, I simply asked the group if this other activity was more valuable for them at that moment. It seemed that they had so much anxiety about their unsolved issue, they wouldn’t have been able to be fully present for my planned agenda. The best way I could serve was to let go of my agenda and help them get what they needed. We ended up getting both things done and the group was grateful and productive as a result.
I’ve heard that people are told to go into a meeting with a ‘point of view’ and ‘get others to agree’. If you go into a meeting with that stance, you are not serving. If you feel like you are waiting for the floor so you can make your point, you are not serving. Think about how your knowledge and expertise can best serve the group.
“Serving” has significantly reduced my stress. I used to sit in a meeting and feel pressure about ‘saying something smart’ or ‘speaking enough’. I was acutely aware of how many words I said compared to everyone else, making sure I said enough but not too much. Now I just relax and know that I will contribute when the group needs it. And if I have nothing to say, that’s ok, my presence and listening are often all that is needed.
My expertise is heard better through service. If you’ve ever had the feeling that you have valuable information and knowledge but no one is listening, this may help you. I learned over time that my expertise shows up when I walk in the room, I don’t need to prove it. What I found out when I stopped trying to be smart, is that people actually listen more. When I was pushing my expertise it was putting up a wall that caused people to shut down to anything that followed. When I put service first, it created a doorway to let the knowledge in.
How have you been able to “serve” at work? Let us know!