The following is a guest post from Ginni Chen, Chief Happiness Officer at iDoneThis
The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tsu said, “To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!”
This is now more important than ever as businesses gain a competitive advantage by nurturing the productivity, creativity and talent of their workers.
Today, innovative founders and CEOs at tech startups are engineering ways to build servant leadership directly into the fiber of everyday life at their companies through the use of technology. In doing so, they’re becoming some of the most sought-after places to work for top talent.
1. Walking beside your team -- use technology to make your company culture open and transparent.
Open and transparent communication channels without hierarchy reinforces that servant leaders walk beside their team, not in front of them. In a transparent company, the CEO is just as accountable for getting stuff done as any other employee, and the only way to lead is by example.
Facebook founder Dustin Moskovitz created Asana, a task management application. Unlike traditional task management applications, Asana not only makes it easy to divide and assign tasks and deadlines, it makes the process transparent so that everyone can see the tasks and objectives of everyone else.
It’s a radical change that has the potential to upend corporate hierarchical structure -- individual employees now can see what the CEO is working on. Moreover, they can assign tasks to the CEO!
2. Get out of the way -- software provides channels for constant feedback without micromanagement
In The Progress Principle, Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile and psychologist Steven Kramer found a surprising result: 95% of managers were wrong in thinking that the #1 motivator for employees at work was bonuses and financial incentive. Rather, employees are most motivated by daily progress towards a meaningful goal. A manager’s job then, is to lead with a compelling vision, remove causes of setbacks and impediments to progress, and then stay out of the way.
At Google, they use an internal software program called Snippets to embody this idea. Every week, employees receive a weekly email asking them to write down what they did last week and what they plan to do in the upcoming week. Replies get compiled in a public space and distributed automatically the following day by email.
The Snippets process encourages reflecting on progress made and giving thought to making the most of the upcoming week. The power of reflection to recognize progress and focus on the company’s most important objectives has made Google one of the world’s most productive companies.
As Google diaspora spread throughout Silicon Valley, so did the process of Snippets. Many hot startups, such as Foursquare, use iDoneThis as a simple way to bring the process of Google snippets to their company.
3. Celebrate accomplishments as a team -- encourage feedback and gratitude every day.
Rather than traditional performance reviews, bonuses, and company parties, innovative tech startups have come up with ingenious ways to celebrate accomplishments as a team on an ongoing basis instead of once a year.
At Shopify, an e-commerce software startup that’s doubled in size in the past year, they’ve built an internal system called Unicorn that makes it fun and profitable to recognize the accomplishments of others.
When a colleague does an awesome job, it’s easy to go into Unicorn, log her accomplishment, and give her one, two or three unicorns by way of thanks. At the end of each month, a proportion of the company’s profits are set aside for Unicorn bonuses. Every employee gets a bonus that comes straight from the coworkers who sent her unicorns in appreciation for her hard work.
This is how the most innovative companies are engineering servant leadership into their work culture. How have you been successful in building a culture of servant leadership? Let me know your thoughts on what helps you encourage service in your company’s leaders.
Ginni Chen is the Chief Happiness Officer at iDoneThis, status reports at your company with the lightest possible touch.