“You’d corner me in your conformity but even in dormancy I’m sleeping with enormity, stretching the belly of the earth and everything I was born to be.”
— Curtis Tyrone Jones, a veteran, coach, motivational speaker, and author
by Judy Ryan
When I hear people say a successful business requires that customers are #1, I am reminded of the saying, “Christmas is for children!” Is it really? Or, rather, is it only for them? This question pre-supposes adults who are whole and complete and overflowing with generosity. I contend that we all need to be treated as #1. Consider: Is your business success solely dependent on the ability of your people to focus on serving customers as top priority? Is it possible you are prematurely “cornering them in your conformity, while in dormancy, they are sleeping with enormity?” I suggest this focus is only part of what’s crucial to guarantee sincere, lasting and generous service.
Here’s why I see things this way. I was reared in a family that made loving others and focusing on their needs the priority for my siblings and myself. This service-mindedness was often at the exclusion of one’s own needs, wants and desires. While there are some truly great things about being trained to care about others, such a singular focus generally leads to a life of unhealthy boundaries, over-giving, confusion, shame about one’s own needs and wants, burnout, and other imbalances, especially when that focus is at the cost of one’s own identity, development and support.
As in the life of a child, people of every age require healthy individuation—i.e., the process of developing an identity separate from one’s authority figures and peers, as well as customers, vendors and others to be served. Individuation is self-realization and necessary to the development of our personality and self-esteem. If we do not successfully complete this process in our adolescence, we must complete it in adulthood, often in our workplaces (and elsewhere too). Without healthy individuation, people lose touch with aspects of their true selves and fail to fully integrate their unique ways of thinking, feeling or valuing— distractions that impede their ability to serve generously. The good news is that individuation can be developed simultaneously with social interest, in which one intends to cause positive outcomes for others. It is then that everyone in any group can be helpful and successful.
People cannot overflow with abundance towards others in an authentic and sincere way without first knowing and loving who they are themselves. It’s like trying to climb a tree before mastering walking; it’s a step too far, too fast, which is one definition of trauma. Why does this information matter? Because as a leader, you cannot expect your people to be in service to others without having well-defined, confident, supported, and differentiated selves required for such service. All are crucial for ensuring the service needed that ultimately contributes to your success and profitability.
So how do you create both strong individuals and strong service to others? Every leader must create conditions and conversations in which their people develop a strong and healthy sense of self by being heard fully, encouraged, afforded trust and respect, empowered to resolve conflicts and barriers, and supported in the discovery and mastery of their personal power. Each must get their social and emotional needs met individually while simultaneously helping those around them to do the same. The following conditions are some that are essential:
- Enabling people to both lead and follow
- Supporting them in giving and receiving
- Teaching them firmness and respect
- Fostering their freedom and responsibility
- Nurturing their power within and supporting the power within all
- Developing them individually and collectively
- Encouraging their love, compassion and respect for self and others
One of the four core needs of all people is to contribute. We are wired to do so and to feel deep satisfaction when we serve. Service must be coupled with knowing one is lovable and deserving of being served, too.
Judy Ryan (judy@LifeworkSystems.com), human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.
People hire LifeWork Systems because we help businesses become agile and manage their priority system: their human system. I hope this article helps you make sense of what’s most crucial to your evolving organization!