Serve People First

Serve People with the How

April 30, 2014 by Mark Kilens

For a leader to serve people first they must define their set of principles. Principles are the how. They are there to serve a leader so the leader understands how they should work towards achieving their purpose.

Like a purpose, there are two different sets of principles a leader should follow. One set of principles is there to serve only the leader.

Personal Principles

Those are the leader's set of personal principles. Think of this set as the leader's set of values or beliefs. Any person that wants to become a genuine leader and serve people first should establish a set of personal principles. This set of principles can evolve overtime as the leader learns more about themselves by way of serving others and through their own life experiences.

I recommend you take pause now and think about how you are being served by your set of personal principles.

If you don't have a set or if they aren't clearly defined, I then encourage you to reflect and spend time thinking about how you live your life.

Ask yourself, how do I live my life each day, what are the things that define who I am, that I embody and do each and every day? Spend some time serving yourself. If you do this now it will become much clearer how to serve people first in the future.

Team Principles

The other set of principles should exist to serve the leader’s team. I'm going to spend the next few minutes talking about why team principles are so important and how to create a set of principles that serves the team.

Team principles are the body of the team. The why is the mind. Principles should literally be embodied in everything the team believes in, executes and produces.

Most critically, the team’s principles are there to serve the customer, the team and then the company, in that order. The “customer” will be defined differently for different teams, however serving the “customer” is always the most important job of any team.

Again, I’m using the word “customer” loosely here. For example a team’s customer might be another internal team at a business, or a business’s actual customer base.

Principles are created to help each team member understand how the team executes and innovates. They are there to serve the team. The team should use the principles to serve each other and people not on the team, the "customer."

Defining Team Principles 

The team's leader should initiate and lead in the creation of the team principles. They should establish guardrails so the team understands how they should go about creating the principles. Should each principle start with a verb? What’s the right amount of brevity? Should each principle be defined?

Guardrails are guidelines that prevent people from falling off the intended path. They help to prevent the leader and team from distractions.

The leader can ask for input from team members, but the guardrails are ultimately the leader’s decision.

Once the guardrails have been defined the leader ideally works with the team to brainstorm a set of principles. This is a very important step in the process. It's important because the team members will feel much more invested in the principles. Trust is built as each team member’s ideas and input are heard and discussed.

A leader should not rush this discovery process. This process is a critical step, ecpsecially with a new team.

If a large team already exists the process can still be used. However, the team leader must first ensure each team member believes in the team's purpose before you can involve them in a principle discovery exercise.

My Personal Experience 

About six months after I created HubSpot Academy I defined a set of principles that the team learned, believed in and followed. The team was small. We were five people strong. Those principles served us from January 2013 to December 2013, one year.

I founded the HubSpot Academy team in May 2012 and didn't have a set of principles defined until January 2013. I learned a lot during the first seven months. The most important thing I learned was understanding how we will achieve our purpose was just as important as the actual team's purpose.

I created the first set of team principles by myself and most importantly, I learned that they should ideally be co-created with the input of other team members. In December 2013 I decided we as a team should update the principles so they could serve us for a long-time to come.

I took this approach because the team was only comprised of 12 people at the time. If you have a larger team I still recommend you co-create a set of principles.

Depending on the size of your team you could take the following approaches: 1) Co-create the principles with the team’s senior leadership. 2) Co-create the principles by meeting with smaller groups of people. 3) Co-create the principles with a mix of senior and junior team members.

Whatever approach you take please, please involve other team members. It will pay off in the long-run.

Over the course of about six weeks, at least four meetings and many side chats, we worked to create a new set of team principles. They're here to serve us in our journey to achieve our purpose, our why.

HubSpot Academy Team Principles

1) Execute with excellence

Get shit done and do great work. You make your fellow team members proud to put the Academy name on your work.

2) Educate with passion

Motivate and inspire people. Your energy and enthusiasm help encourage customers to reach their goals.

3) Create a consistent learning experience

Pay attention to the details.  You provide a consistent framework for customers by using the HubSpot Academy Operating System.

4) Seek out company-wide collaboration

Don’t live in a bubble. You look for opportunities for collaboration with other departments to produce greatness and drive success.

5) Provide outstanding customer service

Make the customer your number one priority.  You ensure that customers leave every interaction feeling good about their experience.

6) Always be learning

Never stop thinking. Your eyes and ears are always open; everything and everyone gives you an opportunity to learn.

7) Never settle

Constantly be improving. Your ability to challenge the status quo always makes the team stronger.

*Stay weird

A quick note about “Stay Weird.” It’s applicable to each principle so that’s why it’s at the bottom with an asterisk.  

The Academy team is being served by each principle everyday. It's how we think, how we execute, how we innovate, and how we will achieve our purpose. It's how we do what we do.

The team leader should use the principles to empower the team. The empowerment will create autonomy for team members to execute, innovate and help one another so that they understand how to accomplish their goals.

What does a genuine leader do every day? They serve their team members.

We'll discuss how leaders could serve their team in a future article.