When working in any organization, it’s important to remember who you serve and it’s not always as obvious as it seems.
Years ago when I worked at a few different churches, I went on a lot of mission trips with the high school youth groups. These trips were all still in the United States (we didn’t take the youth overseas), but generally at least a few hours away.
On these trips, there would be jobs already set up for us — re-roofing houses, painting, etc. In most cases, the adults were more skilled with these jobs, but we had to set firm rules with them. In short, we’d tell them “you’re not here to serve the resident; you’re here to serve our kids“. They’d be eager to get the job done, but much of the value in mission trips goes way beyond the physical work we accomplish and it’s to help the students grow.
If some parents took over the roofing work it would indeed likely go faster, but that’s not the point. We certainly wanted to serve the residents of these houses, but that wasn’t the only purpose. For the parents, their sole purpose was the serve our youth.
The same is true in most businesses. While I certainly care very much about our clients, my first responsibility is to our team, in two ways:
- If the team is treated well, that will flow down to our clients. I don’t need to teach them how to be respectful and responsive if we hire quality people and we model it consistently.
- If a client is abusive, the team needs to know that they come first. We’ve fired a handful of clients over the years because their revenue could never be worth enough to overcome their attitude. It’s rare, but those occasional “firings” tend to be good for the staff because they know that we’re giving up some revenue in order to protect them.
The roles can change depending where you are. Back to the mission trip example I’ve been on all sides of it.
- In high school, I’d serve the residents with my work.
- As a volunteer with the church, I’d serve the students.
- As staff in the church, I’d serve the adult volunteers and the students.
Roles like this show up in our lives in many places, and taking the time to really understand who our role is supposed to serve can make us far more effective.