A thought struck me as I contemplated the observance of Veterans Day here in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada: Have you ever wondered why we don’t have an Excellent Service Day parade?
Is it only because that excellent service is so rare? Or, is it because there is a significant difference between providing service and actually serving?
We talk a lot in business about providing good or even exceptional service. We define it as meeting or exceeding the needs, wants, and expectations of our customers or constituents. This transactional definition is a worthwhile goal, and companies that master this important goal are rewarded with long-term customers and (assuming that they know how to control the cost side of their business) profits.
But, would you name a day after what passes for customer service today – even the exceptional kind? I can’t imagine a parade much less a holiday for companies and individuals who excel at providing service. Can you?
That is because service isn’t serving.
Serving other is a selfless act that puts the needs of others before our personal needs and wants. My father didn’t provide excellent service to his country by enlisting to fight in World War II. He served by placing himself at risk to protect our freedom. Enlisting wasn’t a transaction. It was a calling of honor and duty.
So what would be different if we all decided to serve others rather than simply providing good or even excellent service? How would it transform our relationships? How would it alter the way we viewed our responsibilities?
Max DePree, former CEO of the Herman Miller Corporation, said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is both a debtor and a servant.”
They still might not name a holiday or throw a parade. But, I’m betting that customers and those in follower roles in our organizations wouldn’t describe us using the negative, demeaning language that they use today.
Think about it as you tell a veteran, “Thank you for serving!”