What are we in service to? Do you take action when you are ‘told’ to do something or when you ‘feel’ moved to do it?


Sometimes we are fortunate to meet people that we really connect with. We meet people who do not just interest and inspire us, but make us feel completely comfortable and at ease. In my experience, meeting people like this is not common, but when it happens – you will know – you will feel it.

I was very fortunate to meet Mark Thompson whilst I was at Shop Direct Group. Mark was involved in leading and delivering a leadership development programme to all senior managers. Mark’s inspiration and friendship has allowed me to become the ‘leader’ that I am today. His influence and support are always with me in my decision making. I asked Mark if he would write a post that explored ‘leadership’ and customer service – his words are both thought provoking and stimulating – I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have…..

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I came across a brilliant definition of identity some time ago.  It said something like: “Who you are is the sum of the choices you make.  Who you are is what you do”.  It made me pause.  Really?  Not our intentions, thoughts, feelings, or dress code?  Not our job or house or friends and family?  It’s what I do?  Gosh, simple, then.  So I can decide to write a fantastic blog and send it out into the world to fend for itself, and it will stimulate, annoy, or inspire everyone to take action.

No?  Do you mean you don’t act on every bit of good sense you hear?

We are all in relationship with each other.  Even now, you reading this, puts us in relationship.  The depth of the relationship depends on the distance we have from it.  At a distance it looks like ‘I am an employee of …”, or ‘these are our customer service principles’.  Up close, we call connection passion, or love.  Business has embraced passion as an enabler, but it has yet to place love fully in its lexicon without deep embarrassment.  Why is this?  For beings who love so deeply, why have we eradicated what moves us from virtually all of the mechanisms that create our world?  The re-discovery of love as the route to political and business success will be the second time humanity has discovered fire (personally, I don’t want a corporation knowing my preferences, even if that means they can serve me better, but I do want to know what they love).

Everything is connected.  From the globe-spanning value-chain that provides me with my trainers, to the local butcher I buy my lamb chops from, to the deep and rich and challenging lifelong relationships of family and friends.  To the decision to read this blog.  Everything.  Connected.  All the time.  Constantly changing.  Me, you, them, everyone.

How do we make sense of this when we want to sell something?  Or make something?  Or service something?  No systemic modelling concept is adequate enough.  No leadership or team-working course begins to address it.  No customer service 11th-Dan belt can supply us the answers.  No illusion of control can give us the certainty we need.  The only thing we have is what we do.  And ‘what we do’ is shaped by our fears, motivators, values, hopes, our context, and to some extent by our current level of consciousness.

The famous definition of insanity is doing what we’ve always done and expecting different results – and here’s the challenge: at what point does knowing a thing rationally, consciously, turn into doing something about it?  Two answers: when we’re told to do it, and when we are moved to do it.  We will feel something either way, but I know which one I prefer.  Action occurs when we feel something, not when we know it.  ‘Planet rational’ would either be a planet of zero population, or a machine.

What moved me to action?  I heard a story, told by a man who had studied and worked with native ‘metis’ peoples of North America for two decades.  He told me about the centre of their decision-making.  They called it the ‘Children’s Fire’.  When a decision needed to be made –an important decision that might affect everyone – they would hold a council with 50% women and 50% men present.  They lit a fire at the centre and held a solemn vow: that no decision made here would harm the children – their children, all children, including the planet’s children – out to seven generations.  They made no decision that would harm the children.  What society is it that does not consider the children?

Since hearing that story, I have found an ethic for my own sense of purpose.  Legacy.  Love.  Connection.  Service.  Planet.  It landed with me in that moment, that leadership is not about me being in charge.  It is being in service to something I hold higher than myself.  This is no rational choice, but a sum total of everything that makes me up; all my voices, all my feelings and thoughts and experiences, the people who came before me, those who accompany me, and those who will come after.  I feel something about that, and it helps to align my values with my actions, and then take action.  This is both a definition of consciousness, and a conscious act.

Never mind what voices you have going around inside you.  We all have all the voices.  There are but three questions:

What do you love?  What do you serve?  What action will you take?

Mark Thompson founded courageouslife six years ago, basing his work in the development of confidence and competence around courage as a route into more authentic leadership.  To find out more please visit www.courageouslife.co.uk or contact mark@courageouslife.co.uk.  Mark works with individuals, teams and organisations in the pursuit of a changing paradigm: one that has profit in it, sure, but profit not as both grail and saviour but as equal partner to people and planet.

For a longer, harder bit of inspiration around something meaningful in the personal growth arena, also check out www.embercombe.co.uk.

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