How to be sure you know who you serve

Aug 19, 2021 | 1 comment

My phone rang.

It was a number I didn’t recognize, and I let it go to voice mail, as one does. My assumption was correct. It was a spam call. The pre-recorded voice let me know I could consolidate my student loans into one easy payment — which is great. Except I’m over 50 years old, and I’ve never had student debt.

Un-targeted spam is annoying. I am not this financier’s customer. Their attempt to “serve me” was a waste of my time and theirs. When a business or an organization (or a non-profit!) decides “everyone” is their target, they don’t have a target. They cease serving and start spamming.

Who do you lead? Who do you serve?

Servant leadership. We assume this to be the ultimate leadership aspiration. And it is leadership as modeled by Jesus. Here’s a secret:

You can’t serve everyone all the time.

You can try.

But it’s impossible.

So don’t try. Define your target.

Don’t serve by spamming.

We’re not always great at specificity in the Church/Christian space. The Gospel is for all people. We assume our service should also be for all people, as well. When working cross-culturally, the desire to serve everyone we can exponentially increases.

We’re representatives of the Gospel. We are not the Gospel. Our service is limited. Therefore, it should be targeted.

If you’ve been asked to lead anything, this is fantastic news. A common pitfall is to try being “all things to all people.” You can’t be the go-to person for everything. That’s impossible.

It is critical to define your target lest you hit nothing.

Businesses worth their salt spend time and money defining their “target market.” You and the organization, team, or project you lead should do the same.

Here are three steps to defining your target.

  1. Who are the stakeholders in my life, work, and ministry?

Write them down. This varies according to the situation you lead.

If you run a business, the question is simple. Who are your customers?

If you run a non-profit or project, it’s a little more nuanced.

—Who are your donors? 
—Who are your beneficiaries? 
—Who’s on your board? 

Get granular here. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Create specific personas for your stakeholders. (Contact if you’d like help creating and clarifying your stakeholder’s personas.)

These are the people you influence, lead, and serve. Know who they are.

Then take it one step further.

2. What are my stakeholder’s needs?

Every organization exists to meet some kind of human need. What stakeholder needs do you meet? I like using a simplified version of the hierarchy developed by Abraham Maslow. The original Maslow Pyramid of needs has seven layers. At Growability, we have simplified it to three.

Health and safety: This is the basic level of human need. If you’re meeting needs that involve food, shelter, or clothing, you are meeting the needs of the body.

Belonging and confidence: Things at this level are less tangible but just as important. Everyone needs friendship and community. Everyone needs to feel like they belong and have confidence and dignity. Your stakeholders might come to you for these needs of the soul.

—Inspiration and achievement: The peak of the pyramid is on level with the human spirit. Creativity, spontaneity, altruism, and the need to bring out the fullest of human potential.

Illustration from the Growability® Collaborative toolkit. Used with permission.

Every person on earth has an element of these needs. They are hierarchical. “Health and safety” needs come before “belonging and confidence” which comes before “inspiration and achievement.”

Use this framework to understand the needs of your stakeholders. Then serve them by meeting their needs in your unique way.

3. What is the unique way I (and my organization) meet the needs of my stakeholders?

Know your service. Know the distinct way you lead. Empower the people God has put into your life. You and your organization have unique gifts, strengths, and experiences that meet the needs of your customers, donors, beneficiaries, and board members.

It is a paradox of life: when you try to serve everyone, you end up serving no one. Clarity on who God has called you to serve allows you to know your stakeholders. This focus provides a target for you to aim for and gauge to tell what’s working—and what’s not. 

Here are the key questions for you and your team:

—Who are the stakeholders in my life, work, and ministry?

— What are my stakeholder’s needs?

—What is the unique way I (and my organization) meet the needs of my stakeholders?

Sometimes the screws that hold a trellis together loosen over time and you don’t need a massive overhaul, but you do need to a little bit of maintenance. 

Do 10 of these 16 short ideas from the Global Trellis Team in the next 7 days as a quick life trellis tune-up and get a free workshop or past challenge! Join today.

Photo by Victória Kubiaki on Unsplash

Bernie Anderson

Empowering next-generation leaders, business and non-profit consultant, writer, and speaker.



1 Comment

  1. Bonita

    Thank you for this reminder!


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