Last Thursday, I had a business meeting at Jackson Health Care. I was coming from a breakfast meeting that ran a few minutes late, but I always try to build in margin. As I arrived at Jackson's beautiful campus, I realized that my margin for punctuality might just evaporate trying to find a parking space. Every space seemed to be occupied in their rather large parking lot. (A good sign for a healthy company!)  I couldn't seem to find a space anywhere. I was about to give up and go to an adjourning building when I took a chance at going down the aisle closest to the building. There they were, and they were absolutely beautiful; 5 vacant spaces right by the front of the building labeled "Visitor Parking." I would now be on time for my meeting!

Toward the end of my meeting, I was sharing with my now new friend about my parking experience. I expressed that the detail of allowing visitors and customers to park closest to the building, where you normally see parking spaces reserved for the CEO, was not lost on me. She replied,

Our CEO has a reserved spot too. It’s the furthest spot away from the building on the very back corner of the lot.


I don't know Richard Jackson personally, but I know people who do, and from the description of him they paint, the parking lot is just one more reflection of the intentional culture that he strives to create in his organization. The first thing you see when you walk into their offices is a plaque honoring all of the employees of the company. What a great illustration of a company 'walking the walk' of serving its employees and customers.

I know how to recognize servant leadership. My formative years were shaped profoundly by a man named Ken O'Kelley, the camp director for YMCA Camp High Harbour. Ken creates a competitive environment where all the staff try to out-serve the campers. As the Camp Director, Ken serves the program directors, who all serve the counselors, who all serve their assistant counselors, and everyone serves the campers. There is no job too small for anyone on the team. Ken would often jokingly say that he was the "chief dishwasher." But, it wasn't just talk. He models it everyday, and the camps are kicking out a steady stream of servant leaders.

So, it has been engrained in me to be on the lookout for companies whose leadership serve their employees, and whose culture is built on serving the customers. When I went to work for Syrup, the founder of the company had me over to his house for a dinner party. A guest at the party asked what I did, and I answered, "I work for Benj." Benj cringed. Later in the evening, he pulled me aside and said,

Never tell anyone that you work for me. You work with me. We work for our customers.
— Benj Miller, Syrup Marketing

I've seen Benj model that everyday in our company as he serves our team so we can all serve our clients. 

What about your company? Do you have a culture built on servant leadership? Are the executives of your company untouchable rock stars, or are they the chief servants of your team creating a culture of service for your customers? What are some ways that your leadership serve your team and your customers? 

No matter what, the premium spaces at your office are reserved for the people your company values most. Is it the customer or the CEO?

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