Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
I often encourage leaders to focus on their top performers. Spend significant time and energy where you’ll see the most return. After all, if you don’t focus here, you stand to lose your very best people due to their lack of feeling valued.
And it is often times easiest to spend time and hang out with these high performers. It feels natural to befriend and serve them.
But there are many people within our organizations and within our communities that are doing good work but they seem to be on the peripheral. We have a tendency to shy away from these people and not give them our attention.
They are in your organization, right now. They’re on the fringes. They are the people who don’t join in.
… who hang back.
… who seem distant.
… who don’t benefit in full from the team’s spiritual chemistry.
… who aren’t supported by the team to fulfill their potential.
How would Jesus handle these marginalized employees?
What lessons does Jesus’ life teach us about putting our arms around these people and insuring they feel valued as well?
1. Engaging marginalized employees is now your highest priority.
Jesus blew everyone’s minds with the change in attitude needed by the Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit? Blessed are the meek and the mourning? Those for whom life is hardest are the closest to God?
Not exactly what the people who were “dialed in” to their religious behavior expected to hear, right? They were comfortable and not used to thinking about their good fortune as distracting them from the work God was calling them to.
I often struggle to grasp the strong direction Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of seeking out the poor in spirit, I stay in my comfort zone. I commit time, energy, and resources to lifting up those with whom I am most comfortable. People who are not poor in spirit, but who are simply in need of a boost.
In short, I spend most of my time serving people who don’t make me uncomfortable.
This isn’t what Jesus told us (and showed us, over and over and over again) to do. He spent a significant amount of His time serving people on the fringes. The lesson?
Commit to a daily practice of seeking out your marginalized employees. Take your blinders off within your community and sphere of influence. It’s what Jesus did. The spiritual chemistry of your team can transform every single person within your team – but only if they can feel that chemistry, first-hand, through you.
2. You don’t have time to beat around the bush.
I love how blunt Jesus was, don’t you? He didn’t have time to mince words.
Neither do you. Every day, globalization and the pace of technological advancement make competition harder. You have got to get every single person in your company fully engaged ‒ heart, mind, and spirit – now. You need their full brainpower, and they’re not going to give it to you if they don’t feel like they’re a part of creating something meaningful. Meaning is greatly enhanced from belonging.
Approach your marginalized employees directly and with candor. Tell them you’re concerned that they may not be experiencing the benefit of the team’s full support. Cite specific examples to back up your perception. Then, ask them if your assessment is correct. Take stock of how they respond, and tailor the support you offer accordingly.
Sometimes, people don’t even realize they’re operating outside of the mainstream. They don’t have that awareness and emotional intelligence. That’s okay! Some of the best employees I’ve had have been brilliant, yet introverted and socially disinterested. The goal is to ensure that these folks feel 100% supported to do their work, whatever that support looks and feels like to them.
Most of the time you approach and genuinely offer support to an employee who’s limping by on the fringes of your company, you’ll encounter gratitude. Everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to be “seen.” Everyone wants to contribute!
None of us wants to feel left out, overlooked, and underutilized.
The only way to learn if people are feeling this way is to ask them.
3. You will succeed in engaging the marginalized when you follow up like you mean it.
People are generally untrusting toward their leaders. There is no shortcut to break through this lack of trust. And, there never has been. Even Jesus had to spend years demonstrating and re-demonstrating (and re-demonstrating) His love for and desire to serve His “team” – and they still didn’t quite believe it!
Helping your marginalized employees understand and trust that you want the very best for them doesn’t happen through a single conversation. Keep at it. Invest your time and energy to connect their work to the foundation of your organization. Paint a picture for them of the impact they make in bringing your vision to life. Be crystal clear about the value they add to your team. Give them that gift of awareness over and over again, just like Jesus did.
Does this sound like a lot of work?
It is. I never said servant leadership was easy.
Well, you don’t have to go this extra mile. The majority of leaders don’t. Servant leaders are rare. Servant leaders who seek to model Christ in their leadership behaviors are exceptionally rare.
But then again, so are the results they achieve.
Help your people on the fringes see that there is a place waiting for them in the middle, at the center of the action, where all the love and spiritual chemistry is – if they want it.
Reserve that seat in their minds. Give them that peace of mind.
Just like Jesus did.