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The Human Resource Perspective on “Servant Leadership”

Stephen Heise, Director of Human Resources, Desert Diamond Casinos and Entertainment
Stephen Heise, Director of Human Resources, Desert Diamond Casinos and Entertainment

Stephen Heise, Director of Human Resources, Desert Diamond Casinos and Entertainment

The Human Resource profession offers a unique perspective of the concept of “Servant Leadership” which includes compassion and kindness. Human Resources serves the staff population for the company they support. Their “guests” are the internal team members for their company. The Human Resource focus is serving the internal team members from a communication, pay, benefits, recognition, and development perspective. Here are some examples of how this plays out.

While working at a large resort casino in the Northeast, we were setting up for a team member recognition event where I was going to be the emcee. We were running behind on time, so I took off my suit jacket and started to help move tables and chairs. The front-line convention services staff started buzzing. I asked my Manager of Employee Services what was going on? She said that in the 20 years the resort casino was open, the front-line staff had never seen and executive, i.e. a “suit”, pitch in and help with an event! To me, with my Disney training, you would not consider asking a team member to do something you would not be willing to do yourself. If you want team members to wear a nametag and pick up trash, you had better do it yourself! Of course, once you are in the hospitality business and learn the service culture, it is hard to turn it off. We often find ourselves picking up trash everywhere!

Communication is critical in any company. Those companies that do it well are successful. Those that struggle with it often experience negative consequences for not doing it well. I have always worked hard in keeping my team informed. After each weekly executive meeting, I meet with my Human Resource Leaders to give them an update on critical issues and goals of the company. I also schedule weekly meetings with my entire Human Resource team to update them on what was happening with the company. I always start by recognizing any Human Resource Team Member(s) that had received a compliment from a department head or applicant the past week. I then cover the company update and answer questions on the content. We then go around the room to allow Team Members to voice any issues, concerns or ideas to the group. This format serves to keep the Team Members updated on information and keep the Human Resource Leaders updated on any concerns from the group.

Consider individual needs when you move into a new office space. Sure, you are going to want to put your Human Resource Leaders in offices for confidential coaching and discussions. Possibly you have extra offices that would allow you to include front line Human Resource team members. Consider those that spend the most time at their desks to sit in those offices, especially if there are windows with natural light. Possibly you also have a group of cubicles to fill. Determine which of your team members are more extraverted who want to be on the open ends to interact with those walking by. Determine which of your team members are more introverted and would prefer the inside cubicles for privacy to allow them to better focus on their work. Possible you have a common copier near the cubicles. Determine which team member would either prefer walking the shortest distance to the copier or one that enjoys talking with others who come to use it. Listen to the needs of your team and figure out how to serve them best.

Human Resource professionals can exemplify “Servant Leadership” in many ways. Focus on the needs of the team members you serve and determine how best to do that. We should model the behaviors expected for “Servant Leaders” for the rest of the organization encouraging the rest of the organization to follow our example.

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