The Lesson: ‘Leaders Eat Last’
Prior to entering private industry, I had the honor of serving as a leader in our nation’s armed forces. During my first ever training exercise, I was taught an unforgettable and enduring lesson about life and business. After a long day of intense training, I was starving and took place in the front of the line as dinner became available for the unit. Within seconds, my commander pulled me out of line and asked me to “take a walk with him.” Once we were out of listening distance, he communicated to me that in his unit, “leaders eat last.” The commander continued that my role was to serve my team and to ensure that my team members had every available resource to ensure their success. “Sometimes, that’s going to take a lot of personal sacrifice,” he stated. “But your team’s needs must always be your highest priority. Without them, you’re not going to achieve much.” His example carried well beyond that dinner and became a guiding principle of servant leadership that I’ve strived to adhere to in my professional life. Fortunately, I found my way to SEI, where I work with colleagues who are willing to go above and beyond to ensure the success of others.
At the Client
There is likely no better environment to observe SEI’s understanding of servant leadership than through the lens of our client engagements. In a recent example, one of our consultants noticed that the IT department at his client was having issues with a technical configuration. The consultant put out a call for help to all SEI offices asking if anyone had experienced similar issues. A few hours later, there was a lunch time conference call put together with several SEI consultants from multiple offices to help identify and resolve the client’s issue. The client was not billed for this combined SEI effort, but the appreciation of our value-add that it generated ensured that the client became even more enamored with SEI.
Another example that comes to mind: a client reached out to one of our consultants and expressed a need to find a reputable staffing agency to help fill job vacancies in Europe. While SEI has no operations in Europe, the SEI team provided a referred list of talent firms and contacts willing to assist our client. We saw a client need, and while we couldn’t help directly, we knew people who could. For us, client success is a mindset, not just a business offering.
In the Community
When speaking with candidates in our interview process, one aspect they often find appealing is SEI’s emphasis on contributions to the communities in which we live and work. As a team, we are constantly challenging each other to discover opportunities to serve and bring measurable benefits to organizations in need. Participation in charitable efforts is core to who we are as a team. Not buying it? Read “An Incredible Evening! Josh Cares Fire and Ice Event”. And “Generosity At Its Best”. And “SEI Collaboration at Work in the Fight Against Breast Cancer”. Active charitable involvement is so integral to the culture that our interviewing teams often inquire how a candidate currently gives back to the community. For my colleagues and I, this is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding elements of working at SEI.
Within the Firm
When I first started interviewing with SEI, there was no doubt that I was interacting with highly trained and experienced professionals with vast subject matter expertise. At the time, what was unknown to me was just how enthusiastic my future peers would be in providing any type of professional or social assistance that I needed. From providing subject matter or client briefings to lending a hand when family support is needed, SEIer’s are there for each other. We’re good consultants as individuals; we’re great as a team. That’s the power of collective value. You’ll be hard pressed finding an SEI consultant that isn’t willing to make the time to help you be a better team member. This individual support is also echoed at the geographical level, our collaboration and collective value is scalable. SEI locations do not compete against each other, quite the opposite, each of the seven SEI offices support the others, providing advice, referrals, resources and miscellaneous assistance as requested.
When I reflect back on my time in the service, my fondest personal accomplishments were always the greatest achievements of my teams. I’m glad to find that SEI is no different.
Echoing my commander’s sentiments: Without our clients, community, and each other, we’re not going to achieve much.