Proposition 15: Downstream work requires an unconditional service disposition.

Lee Iacocca & Hafiz
Unconditional service is selfless action taken by an individual or group for the benefit of others, motivated by a heartfelt desire to enrich the world.

When we give unconditional service, we work for the benefit of others without wanting anything in return.

In contrast, conditional or reciprocal service is encapsulated in the phrase “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. If you do a favour for me, I now owe you a favour. There is a debt, and it must be repaid if relations are to remain cordial.

This is not service. It’s trading favours, a transaction, a quid pro quo arrangement.

In professional relationships, I find that most people follow the norm of reciprocity: when we do someone a favor, we expect an equal one back.

In friendships, the norm shifts from reciprocity to generosity. We focus on what our friends need, not what we can get back from them. Instead of keeping tallies of credits and debts, friends give whenever they can.

Source: You’re Not My Friend, by Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.
Unconditional service comes from the heart. It doesn’t make sense to the rational mind, the source of conditional service. But when we practice unconditional service in faith, real-world feedback and in-the-body experience let us know we are making the right choice.

‘Paying it forward’ may seem a more enlightened approach, but the word paying exposes its underlying transactional nature.

Pay it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor. The concept is old, but the phrase may have been coined by Lily Hardy Hammond in her 1916 book In the Garden of Delight: “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.”

Source: Wikipedia.
In a generative, world-enriching enterprise, project team members provide unconditional service as they seek to accomplish the enterprise’s mission, realise its vision and manifest its intent.

Intent The enterprise’s heartfelt desire to enrich the world in a particular way and utilise its value generation potential to the full.

Mission The programme of work that will manifest the enterprise’s intent within a given timeframe.

Unconditional service is not a concept. It cannot be codified, taught or evaluated. People must experience it, as both a giver and a receiver.

I believe cross-functional co-coaching in sets of four could be an effective means by which the giving and receiving of unconditional service is experienced on a continuous basis. I will say more about this idea in a future article.

More quotes

The real joy of daily work is in what we have to give. We are not fulfilled by what we can seek to please us, but what we can build and offer. It is not fame, or money, or recognition that makes for a thoroughly meaningful life, it is how we put our gifts to use. It is how we give.

Source: You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At. By Brianna Wiest, founder of Soul Anatomy.

When employees’ performance is contingent on being rewarded by customers or employers, they’re handing over the keys to their attitude and performance. When that happens, it’s a lot like personal relationships that are based on lofty expectations and conditional love: there’s no scenario in which they thrive.

Source: Unconditional service, by Steve Curtin.

Historically, servant leadership has been seen as more about the heart than the head. This study [by Myriam Chiniara and Kathleen Bentein, professors in the Department of Psychology and the School of Business Administration, respectively, at the University of Quebec at Montreal] adds to the growing body of evidence that it is time for the head to catch up.

Source: You’ve Got to Serve Someone, by Eric J. McNulty, director of research at the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, in strategy+business.

The idea of “servant leadership” is a great place for new managers to start. Robert Greenleaf coined the term 35 years ago, but the concept is still vital and empowering. Granted, “servant” doesn’t sound nearly as powerful as “boss,” but it has the potential to deliver far more of what most of us are really after: influence. The reason is simple. When you have a servant mentality, it’s not about you. Removing self-interest and personal glory from your motivation on the job is the single most important thing you can do to inspire trust.

Source: New Managers Need a Philosophy About How They’ll Lead, by Carol A. Walker, in Harvard Business Review.

Further reading

New Managers Need a Philosophy About How They’ll Lead, by Carol A. Walker, in Harvard Business Review.

Unconditional service, by Steve Curtin.