On Being A Good Steward
August 15, 2018
I was once asked in a nonprofit organization’s board meeting, by the president of the board, what the term stewardship meant. I explained that I believed stewardship was saying hello, being polite, and helpful to any stakeholder – known or unknown. For the stakeholders we knew, it was remembering their birthday, their recent trip to Greece, or that their mother-in-law was recently hospitalized. It is also meant using the dollars at my disposal with care, concern, and integrity to advance the mission of the institution. I also explained that in my view, stewardship began the moment someone entered our doors and it did not end when they left – it was ongoing. And perhaps most important, it was about championing the institution to the public.
While my story took place in a nonprofit board meeting, the idea of stewardship is also applicable to the for-profit sector. We should all be good stewards of the companies where we work, to the people we serve – past, present, and future, and to each other.
When employees do not act as good stewards it can impact the bottom line. Think about it, why should a client use the company’s services or buy its products when the sales rep is badmouthing their boss or complaining about the benefits? Do you want to collaborate with a colleague who constantly moans and groans about your boss? Would you want to purchase the products of a company when their employees are posting negative comments on social media? The answer is no. No one expects everything to be perfect, very job has its ups and downs, but be professional because it makes you look good, and being a good steward brings value to the company.
There are three simple, but important strategies, you can employ to be a better steward:
Listen to Others and Cultivate Relationships
By listening you can learn more about someone, what is important to them, things going on in their lives, and be a good steward by remembering those things. When a colleague’s father is sick, ask how he is doing. When a client returns from a weeklong trip to the beach, ask about the trip. When a prospective client says she’ll be out of town the following week taking her youngest to college, when you connect after that, ask how the drop off went. These little gestures are simple, but they are the means by which to cultivate a relationship.
Do Not Speak Ill of the Company
There is no such thing as the perfect job or the perfect company, but speaking about a company’s faults or problems, will not make your job any better, nor will it make you feel any better. Be a good steward by celebrating what your company does well. Promote it to others. This does not mean lying or conjuring up false stories, just focus on the good. If asked about a recent problem or issue, be honest, but positive.
Be Responsible with Company Money
Company money is real and it does not grow on trees any more than your own money does; therefore, be wise and judicious in how you spend it. Have your eye on an expensive chair for your office – well, would you spend your own money to purchase that chair? Can your budget afford it? What other purchases or expenses might have to be cancelled so you purchase that chair? Will the purchase of that chair help you achieve the organization’s mission? In most cases the answer will be no, but if you have a bad back and you’re going to be more productive with a therapeutic chair, the answer might be yes.
Being a good steward is similar to being an ambassador. A good steward, like an ambassador, is a respected representative, one who acts on behalf of their company, promoting it. They meet and greet and engage with many people, never knowing who might later be a friend or a foe. The build and cultivate relationships.
So, think about how you interact with your co-workers, leadership, and clients, and ask yourself – am I a good steward?
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies