CARE by Serving

by Al Smith

guest blog post by Mark Sanborn

There are dozens of wonderful ways to view your relationships and potential relationships. Mine is based on the simple concept of inputs and outputs. What’s coming into your life from other people, and what are you sending out from your life into the lives of other people?

The “other people” are all those you know or come in contact with—your family, your friends, your coworkers, your customers and clients, your community, your waitress at the diner . . . everyone. When you produce something of value, others benefit. Who are those people? And who are the people who impact the value you create?

You don’t treat all these people the same, of course. You probably won’t ask the waitress at the diner for advice on a career opportunity (although you might) and you probably won’t ask your boss for advice on your love life (although you might). Each relationship is unique. But two interconnected concepts are foundational to managing any relationship: love and service.

When you put those two things into your relationships, they will come right back out, but in this case two plus two doesn’t equal four; it equals something much more, because you’ve created a loyalty that becomes a multiplier.

You’ve probably heard it said that everyone in every organization is in sales. But selling doesn’t create a customer. Selling creates a transaction. Service—how we treat and care for that person—creates a customer. Without the customer, all is lost. Remember: no customers, no profit. Know customers, know profit. So making a connection with the customer becomes vital to the initial transaction and, more important, to the continued loyalty for your organization or brand.

Likewise, service sets the foundation for all your other relationships. How are you serving your spouse? Your children? Your friends? Your employees? Your boss? Your board of directors? Your church? Your community?

As you process your service to others, keep in mind two things:

  1. Know those you serve. Know what they value. Understand their scoring systems. For instance, how is your boss scoring your work performance? And how are your customers scoring your product?

    When I work with clients on customer service challenges, there are three questions I tell them to ask their customers: What do you like most about doing business with us? What do you like least? And what do you tell others about our company? You can repurpose those questions for most of your relationships to help you assess the needs and expectations of the people you are serving.

    But don’t stop there. Keep learning as much as you can about the people you are serving and the people who serve you. This requires moving beyond small talk to the deeper issues in people’s lives. Challenging ourselves to really know people is unusual in our culture. It’s far too easy to judge people by how they look or act rather than doing the hard work of understanding why. But you can’t fully serve people you don’t fully understand.

    Few organizations live this better than HEB Grocery, the Texas-based chain with more than three hundred stores that’s known for its superior service. The chain prides itself on a creating a culture of “restless dissatisfaction” and a drive for thinking like its shoppers.

    Managers in the Rio Grande Valley, for instance, once noticed an annual spike in the sales of rubbing alcohol. They didn’t just increase their stock during that time of the year; they figured out the reason for the spike: customers who couldn’t afford air conditioning used the alcohol to cool their skin. That led HEB to partner with manufacturers to create its own brand of rubbing alcohol that included moisturizers so that it wouldn’t dry out the customers’ skin. The product soon made up 25 percent of HEB’s rubbing alcohol sales.

  2. Make it about them. The Rotarians have a great motto: “Service above self.” It’s an ideal each of us should adopt in all our relationships. We need to look at others and put their needs above our own—in personal relationships as well as business relationships. As Philippians 2:3 puts it, “In humility value others above yourselves.”

    I recall being on a panel with Alan Weiss, a fellow speaker and consultant, when he said, “At the end of the day, it’s about improving people’s condition. You make their situation better.” He was talking mainly about customers, but the point transcends customers and applies to any relationship connection.

    If you think you are serving someone (your spouse, your boss, your coworkers, your friends) and they don’t feel like they’re being served, then you need to adjust your service to their situation. Get to know what they really need and put their needs ahead of your own. And do it not out of hope for gain but because it is the right thing to do. Whether you benefit from it is secondary.

    Truly caring is about more than how you feel about others; it is about what you do to demonstrate that concern and compassion through service.

Mark Sanborn

 About Today’s Guest
Today’s guest blog post is an excerpt from Mark’s new book, Up, Down or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times are Good, Bad or In Between. For more information about the book and to get some great free resources, visit Mark’s website.

Mark is the president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea lab for leadership development. lists Mark as one of the top 30 leadership experts in the world. In addition to his experience leading at a local and national level, he has written or co-authored 8 books and is the author of more than two dozen videos and audio training programs on leadership, change, teamwork and customer service. He has presented over 2400 speeches and seminars in every state and a dozen countries.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Al Smith November 1, 2011 at 9:07 am

Thanks so much for this, Mark. I finished the book last week and it is filled with great ideas and suggestions. None more important that your great post here and especially your second thought; “Make it about Them.” Such great advice. And your last 2 lines really sum it up.

“Truly caring is about more than how you feel about others; it is about what you do to demonstrate that concern and compassion through service.”

Thanks again so much for kicking off the guest blog series with a Bang ! Much Gratitude.



J.D. Meier November 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I like the mantra “service above self.”

I think we get extra strength when we feel we’re contributing to something more.
J.D. Meier recently posted..Getting Started with Getting Results Free eBook


Bill Dorman November 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm

You’ve hit the nail on the head; servitude leadership can be very effective on many levels and the Rotary motto fits well within this framework.

I also think it is very important to know those that you serve and also know your reason ‘why’ you are serving them.

Thought provoking and well written; thanks for sharing.
Bill Dorman recently posted..My personal quest for 10,000


Kaarina Dillabough November 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Al, what a great way to start off your GP series! Mark, I look forward to buying your book:) Love this post, in particular, “No customers, no profit. Know customers, know profit.” What a gem!

I’ve shared with Al that I have a very simple Mission in life: To spread joy. And I believe that, by being of service, that is the way that we spread joy. Doing things without expectation of return, simply for the sheer pleasure of doing them to benefit the receiver can’t help but benefit the giver as well. A kindness done is its own reward. How does the saying go? “The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.”

Great post Mark: great kick-off to the series Al:)
Kaarina Dillabough recently posted..What I learned during my Week Off the Grid


Claudia November 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Hello Mark,

What a wonderful read…Your last line encapsulates exactly the most important point in my opinion…..”caring is about what you do to demonstrate that concern and compassion through service” Knowing those you serve is so vital and requires good listening skills and the ability to be perceptive. In knowing those that you serve helps to improve not only your communication with them but the quality of the relationship as well. Making it about them is excellent advice because it reminds us to take our egos out of the equation…if we make our relationships about the other person, we are less apt to focus on what is in it for me.
Thank you for a wonderful guest post Mark….and Al!!!! What a great way to start off your guest post month!!! Awesome!
Claudia recently posted..We Did the Monster Mash – Imagination and Halloween


Barbara Klein November 1, 2011 at 1:59 pm

What a kick-off for the GP series, Mark, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

As a former Xerox sales woman in the last century I can relate to “no customers, no profit. Know customers, know profit”, though in those days it was all about quantity not quality, figures and not emotions. Needless to say I did not fare well with my superiors when I refused to force a sale. But I gained my customer’s trust in serving them according to the Rotarian motto of “service above yourself”, building strong relationships.

I have only come later to realise that the most important thing is to be true and respecting to yourself and those around you, be it family or business.
Barbara Klein recently posted..Maremma Mia


Steven November 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Dear Mark,
First of all, thanks for sharing your insights. I am a firm believer of serve-before-self. However, I’m having a small issue with “fully understanding people”. True, you will not build any relationships with shallow contact. But it takes a full psycho analysis to really understand the why of someone’s behaviour as there are various ‘selfs’ driving it. The gist suggests that it would increase predictability of people’s behaviour, whereas we all know that there is nothing more unpredictable as human nature. Maybe then to contribute my view to your post: If I may compare an individual with an iceberg, the behaviour is its top which is above the surface. The personality, morals, values etc. is deep below and is its foundation. The part in between is the ‘vehicle’ for behaviour, i.e. knowledge, skills etc. This is the part that can be more easily be explored. If you reach that part of the other, I think you’re already a huge step towards “Know those you serve”. My humble opinion. I will look for your books though! :) Steven


Mark Sanborn November 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Thanks all, for the encouraging and insightful comments. Much appreciated.

Steven, you make an excellent point. A more realistic and attainable would be to understand people as best you can to serve them as best you are able. I agree: fully understanding people (taken literally) is a daunting task. My comment is born of the observation that we often don’t make the effort to understand those we serve even a little much less fully.

Today I also posted something I’ve been working on for the last few weeks. See what you think:


Jimmy November 2, 2011 at 5:33 am

Hi Mark,

A truly authentic post with a strong call for service to others. I like the concept that if you do not feel the gratitude of the people you are serving, you are doing it the wrong way. Far too often, people think that just by helping, they should be appreciated. But you have rightly pointed out that the right form of help is needed too.
Jimmy recently posted..Using the Law of Attraction to Speed up the Attraction Process


Mark Sanborn November 8, 2011 at 9:11 am

Today I’m posting this on my Facebook Fan leadership page: Write a note or make a phone call to thank someone you appreciate. An email is better than nothing, but a handwritten note is more powerful and a call more personal. It doesn’t have to be dramatic: maybe it is a quick “Thanks for your advice” or “I appreciate the example you set.” While it might technically be possible to “over-appreciate” others, I’ve yet to see it done.


Cheri December 7, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Quality articles or reviews is the secret to attract
the visitors to pay a visit the website, that’s what this web pagee is providing.
Cheri recently posted..Cheri


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: