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A Servants Heart: Building a Great Team

Updated: Mar 16, 2019




Almost three decades ago I joined a startup team for a new faith-based hotel conference center in Virginia Beach, The Founders Inn. Back then the hiring process took quite a bit longer than it does today, months of phone and mail correspondence. Today candidates can preview opportunities, network on LinkedIn, apply for positions and communicate with potential employers, all in the palm of their hand. One thing has not changed though and it is what employers seek, a candidate with a Servants Heart. When we were hired by the Founders Inn and in turn began to vet qualified employees, we had one essential question to answer. Does this person have a servant’s heart?


Why was that so important?

We were venturing into a highly competitive service-based business and in our case one that could not rely upon the safety of a revenue stream from alcohol sales. The Inn was also the nations first hotel that was smoke- free. Therefore, our uniqueness and eventual success would be measured on how well we served the customer, hence the need to hire those with a servant’s heart.


You may be asking yourself what is a servant’s heart?

Let’s start with an Academy Award Winning Movie that opened the same year as the Founders Inn, Beauty and the Beast. One thing that stands out from Jerry Orbach’s rendition of Lumiere song Be Our Guest- “life is so unnerving for a servant who’s not serving, he’s not whole without a soul to wait upon”. This was the attitude that we were in search of, people who really loved serving the guests. As one can imagine it was difficult back in the ’90s but not as difficult as it is today because the customers’ expectations have evolved.


How is the word "servant" perceived?

Many factors can affect the way we under a word. Some people think the word servant is synonymous with the word slave. A slave has no choice in what they have to do and must be freed in order to act on their own accord. A servant is one who makes a choice daily to please others, service is a calling. Those who have a servant’s heart understand the joy from a job well done, when a guest smiles, and when they say thank you. Any venture that has contact with people, which is just about everyone, should search for candidates who possess a servant’s heart. As servant leaders it is our job to ensure that our employees also have a genuine smile. Those who possess a servant heart and enjoy what they do can become exponetially more valuable when their leaders are servants as well, serving the needs of their employees.

Sir Richard Branson has a great perspective “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”


Here is a simple equation to illustrate how a great team is truly a GIFT.





Growth= Investment x ( Fit + Talent)


A ventures growth is based upon the quality of training and time invested into its greatest resource, people. Hire talented people who are correctly positioned to complement the team dynamic. After all, we would not want to take a person who has the pedigree and education of accounting and place them on a team where they would be cooking in a banquet kitchen serving upwards of 6000 meals per day. Valuable employees critically think about the task ahead use their talent and training to execute a plan in which the customer's expectations are exceeded.


Investing in the development of employees is the leader’s task after the employee is poistioned correctly, and this occurs on several levels. Training employees to antipate others needs is paramount in building the value of the employee in relation to the venture.


How many times have you encountered an employee who was poorly trained, or not trained at all? Most customer complaints stem from unmet expectation. Another level is to actively acknowledge the value that the employee adds to the venture. This tangibly begins with the salary and benefits that the employee receives, but that is just the start in retaining employees.


Here are three ways to improve retention.

1. Acknowledge to the employee the value that they add to the venture.

2. Praise in public, correct in a private.

3. Reward and celebrate excellence.




A great team flourishes in a great working environment. During the Holidays it is wonderful to see how organizations express their appreciation to employees in tangible and practical ways. Employee retention is becoming a challenging issue because the pool of talented individuals is decreasing. To compound this issue talented employees who feel under-valued will generally seek greener pastures. It is the leaders responsiblity to recognize excellence in performanc and celebrate others growth in the green pasture that has been developed. The greener the pasture the better the roots and the more likely the employee will stay planted and continue to serve.


Gift Equation Source ( Talent Plus)

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