“Service Culture” – what does it mean?

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How many times have you tried to explain to a friend or associate, the value of service culture, only to have them misunderstand your intention?  Have you often needed to explain that we are educators (and lifelong practitioners) of “service culture”, and found your words inadequate?  How can we explain that “service culture” is not just the actions of “customer service”, but a much bigger, much more global offering?  Do the words sometimes escape what your heart clearly understands?

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a passion for words.  Words are the paintbrush of our verbal artist’s canvas.  It is with the selection of words that our message is transmitted with clarity, and our meaning is conveyed with elegance, poetry and power.

At UP! Your Service, we define “Service” as “taking action to create value for someone else” and “Service Culture” as “a shared purpose where everyone is focused on creating value for others inside and outside the organization.”  I believe this is a wonderful definition, and yet truly one of many.  Does this clearly explain what service culture means to you in your daily work?

I have considered the term “Service Culture” quite a lot, and still grasp for an even more heart-felt description of what feels so very far reaching.

If I may, please allow me to defer to the most root definitions of the word Service and the word Culture.

In most simple terms, Service is defined as “The performance of work for another”. Similarly, but not quite so simplistically, Culture is defined as “The total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action.”

Wow!  I found this really eye-opening.  To look at the key messages when these two powerful words are put together… Inherited… Shared…. Values …Knowledge…Social action …to perform work for another…. Isn’t this exactly the heart of the matter?  We must strive to create a lasting legacy of shared wisdom.  Working together, to work for another, makes everyone feel good and creates great results.  When we work together the end result will be far greater than the sum of the individual contributions.

One of my fondest memories in a past position of employment (with a Fortune 1000 giant) was an event where a group of volunteers all got together to paint homes. These homes were located in an area where people of great need were housed. In the Los Angeles area, this neighborhood was not one to venture into without caution.  Frankly, this was a violent area.

All levels of personnel volunteered: Senior Management, Middle Management, front-line staff and even interns and maintenance personnel put on their painting clothes to do good works.  We all came away closer, more aligned, happier (and COVERED in paint!).  In my 7 years with this organization, this was one of the most effective team building, and spirit lifting days… ever.  And we all did this over a weekend.

Does this sound like your workplace?  Has Service-Culture transcended “customer service” into an invitation for shared and collective action?  Has the vision of the bigger picture become the vision of what your culture might become, or accomplish?  And have you occasionally scheduled good works outside your organization together as a team?  Is there joy in the service you provide to others?   Could YOU be the catalyst to make this happen?

The following quotes seemed to speak far more articulately than I…

Service… is love in action, love “made flesh”; service is the body, the incarnation of love. Love is the impetus, service the act, and creativity the result with many by-products. – Sarah Patton Boyle

Whilst all the world is in pursuit of power, culture corrects the theory of success. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted On: 26 June 2011
Categories: Service Culture
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2 Responses

  1. Dan Haygeman says:

    I too, am an admirer of words. And I appreciate the on-going attempt to capture in words what Ron and others are pointing to in this blog. What is missing for me is not missing here, these words work very well for me, actually. Rather, I see that at some point we run off the edge of what is possible in words. (Try describing a memorable kiss in words, or the experience of assisting someone who looks you in the eye while they say “Thank You”, and you’ll get a hint of what I mean.) Fundamentally for me, the core of what ‘Service’ and ‘a Service Culture’ mean is not available in words . . . because I have seen/felt/noticed that I slip into a different universe when I switch my focus from ‘what I am doing’ to ‘how am I serving’. My effort to attempt to transmit verbally what life is like in that universe cannot do the experience justice . . . we speak a different language over there.

    Best,

    Dan H.

  2. Andrea Ihara says:

    Beautifully said Dan.

    I completely agree. Words often, do not articulately state what is in one’s heart.

    The next blog, written by my friend, and our COO Jeff Eilertsen, will touch on just this point. It reminds me that true-service is a “heart orientation” and cannot be well taught, if the heart is not fueled by a desire to serve.

    Warmly,

    Andrea



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