Everyday people, extraordinary acts: what we can learn about selfless service

- May 14, 2020 3 MIN READ

Remember the footage of fire chiefs who selflessly performed their duties with bravery, during the January bushfires? What about the woman who tore her shirt off and ran into burning embers to save a koala? Or the neighbours who were photographed providing relief, raising money and opening their homes to people who had lost everything?asks Jaquie Scammell.

These images are etched into our minds, never to be forgotten (even during COVID-19).

These were scenes of everyday people doing extraordinary acts and some were labelled and will be remembered as heroes. But are these people any more skilled or special than you? Think about if you were in their shoes, in that same place or situation, would you have taken the same action just like them? Do you need devastation and fear to step up and serve people in a way that people view as heroic?

Ordinary humans have an extraordinary ability to make people feel seen, heard and helped when in need – no matter what business, industry, role or country we are in.

Choose to Serve

What we have learned from these service heroes is that, in the moment, when someone is in need, we have the choice to serve. On any given day, we make conscious and unconscious choices about what tasks to do next, what to prioritise, who to speak to about a problem, or what to listen to. When you make conscious choices, they get 100 per cent of your attention. This results in you having a certain aliveness about you – you’re attentive, focused and committed to giving what it takes in that moment. If someone or something is important enough, you always will find a way to say yes or help them.

Unconscious choices, on the other hand, get less than 100 per cent attention. You can be easily charmed or distracted by something else, you’re not fully present in that moment, and you may not be fully attentive to what you’re experiencing. With unconscious choices, it’s like you’re on autopilot: mindless and certainly not present.

People you serve, if asked, would probably say that they would appreciate your 100 per cent attention when you’re with them. We all want to feel like we’re important to others and that when someone is serving us, they are doing so fully and freely, not out of obligation. Fundamentally, we want to be served by people who consciously choose to do so.

If we look back at some of the actions taken by the service heroes during a crisis, they acted from a place of presence, single-pointed attention, and every thought during their actions was conscious. You don’t need a crisis to consciously choose to serve in extraordinary ways, you just need to make a choice that this is who you want to be and how you want to be remembered.

Being a Service Hero

There are 5 service hero skills each and every one of us can remember and try to bring into our interactions with customers, colleagues or clients.

  1. Listen for answers

In a world in which circumstances and product demands are ever changing, information from your service interactions can be your secret weapon to staying innovative and relevant.

  1. Serve from a place of heart to heart

When you serve from a place of authenticity, without a facade or mask, it is easier and takes less effort.

  1. Practice a skill for life

Understanding people is a strong point of leadership and good human-to-human behaviour, and every business that involves relationships needs people who can seek this understanding.

  1. Be present

When you’re stressed and caught up in your thinking mind, one of the quickest ways to get out of your own head is to serve someone else and place your attention on them, in the now.

  1. Love to serve others

One of the basic needs of any human is self-esteem. There is a value exchange that comes from service besides products and money.

When you get out of your own way and truly step into a moment with someone, and you are there to listen, learn, help and serve, it’s no longer about you. It’s the ultimate gift to a fellow human being, to choose to serve them. That’s how you become a service hero, too.

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