Servant Leadership on the Job: Reed Bennett

Reed was a participant in a Servant Leadership class in early 2011. This interview was a follow up to Reed’s class to see what he’d learned and how he’d been able to apply the principles of Servant Leadership in the work he does as Food Safety Certifications & Training Manager at Broetje Orchards. 

What did you learn from SL Class?

Reed was given a new position as Safety Supervisor at Broetje Orchards, and he was concerned about how he would approach the others in his new position. He worked on how to approach and engage his peers, to make a collaborative approach rather than a top down approach. The teamwork aspect really drove home the need to have it be a work together rather than top-down approach. Reed noticed that it’s much less effective than if you get fellow employees to join in on the planning process to get them to buy-in to the plan. That helps persuade them to follow the correct course. They wait for a good time to bring up an issue and to approach it from a collaborative viewpoint.

How have you been able to apply that specifically?

It’s helped tremendously to have a collaborative approach to solving problems…teamwork and collaboration is essential. If you are able to get a group of people together, then you are able to prevent an environment of criticism and create an environment of collaboration.

Reed put together a safety representative team for food and people safety. They recognized there wasn’t a culture of care for safety in the warehouse. After creating the team, people were more open to presenting their concerns. Each area supervisor selected someone to represent their area, and those people present concerns on behalf of everyone in their area. When issues arose, there was strength in the collaborative nature of the team and the concerns of each member were honored.

Supervisors of Reed have given him feedback that his new approach to management has greatly improved the performance of his team and he has greatly improved his ability to listen, include and persuade others in improving the safety of the Broetje Orchards warehouse.

One thing that stood out was that Reed avoids using the word “I” in an email, and attempts to use the word “We,” because in the end, “we’re all in it together.” This is another example of how his communication has changed in order to improve the collaborative nature of the work they are doing.

What stood out to you in the Servant Leadership class?

There was a Gahndi video where he stands up in front of a group of people and that they are going to do it peacefully, and he got them to collaborate by singing the British national anthem…Reed is trying to do the same thing by getting people to stand up together on their common ground at work, even when they don’t always agree. The other clip about Gahndi losing his temper at his wife provided encouragement to show him that even the greatest Servant Leaders fail, but his willingness to recognize his failure to keep his temper in check.

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