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Serve Up, Coach Down: Mastering the Middle and Both Sides of Leadership with Nathan Jamail

Karen VIotti
Thursday, Apr 19, 2018

Nathan Jamail doesn’t just write about leadership, he has lived it, in a 25-year career spent in sales management and coaching top performing teams. Jamail has worked with hundreds of organizations and thousands of leaders over the years including Cisco, FedEx, State Farm, T-Rowe Price, The Hartford, Comcast, Microsoft, the US Army Reserve, Georgia Pacific, Capital One Finance, and US Healthworks. He is the author of four bestselling business books, including The Sales Leaders Playbook.

Serve Up, Coach Down teaches leaders in the middle just how powerful they are. It fills the gap between the books those leaders read and the information they actually need by answering the big questions that constantly confound leaders and their companies:

• Why do leaders who care about their teams still struggle to gain their boss’s approval?
• Why do those same leaders who feel they serve their teams have so much difficulty getting teams to step it up and go beyond the basic requirements of their jobs?
• Why do leaders have issues getting other divisions in the organization to do more, so that their teams don’t have to do more than their share?

The answer:Leaders in the middle too often serve down to their people and defend up to their bosses, instead of serving up to their bosses and coaching down to their employees. This is why so many companies struggle to innovate and get stuck—leaving everyone frustrated and looking for answers. Serve Up, Coach Down changes all that, and is set for release in October 2018.

A Conversation With Nathan Jamail

How is this book different than all of the other servant leadership written in the past?
100% in most cases. The notion of ‘Servant Leadership’ is a noble concept and is a great concept for us to use in business today, but what many have been teaching and trying for years is wrong in today’s world. We should be serving those that lead us. We should serve those that pay us; our bosses and the organizations we work for. The way we serve our people is to coach them and make them better, similar to raising children. As parents we must teach our kids how to be strong, disciplined and a person that contributes positively to society. But when we take all of their
struggles away and protect them from everything and give them everything—they become spoiled kids and ultimately entitled adults. Servant leadership is not about making our employees’ lives easy by removing their problems or defending them or protecting them. It is about coaching them and making them better. We should however serve those that follow us by coaching them. If everybody in the organization coaches down and serves up they will be aligned in belief, principle and action and will ultimately create a thriving culture.

How is serving up different than sucking up?
Completely different in intent and action. First, sucking up is not about serving at all. Sucking up is about manipulation and deceiving others. Sucking up is typically achieved with words and not action. Serving up is shown through action. A person that understands their job is to do the best work possible and exceed their boss’s expectations.

Are middle managers lower level managers?
Not at all. Middle managers make up over 90% of the leaders in business today. A middle manager can be a President, VP, Director, Manager or supervisor. A middle manager is anyone that has a boss and also has employees. No one likes to be called middle manager because they see it as an insult. But it’s not; it is the most powerful leader in the company which is why we call them ‘Leaders in the Middle.’

Why are middle managers or LIM the most powerful leaders?
LIM are the most powerful because they have the responsibility and the power to take the vision or direction of their leaders and own it as their own. A great LIM is able to take a vision and turn it into execution. There is no success without execution.

What do you mean when you talk about “Keeping the Power” in your book?
One of the biggest issues with LIM is keeping the power. By power I mean that a LIM is not viewed as just another link in the chain of command. Most LIM give up the power by accident; when they tell their followers that someone above them made a decision and they must follow the direction. This appears to those that follow them as powerless. The key to keeping the power is owning all directions regardless of where it came from.

This is achieved when a LIM does not blame leaders rather they focus on how they will achieve the goals versus question why a decision was made.

How do the Serve Up Coach Down principles help organizations in leading through change?
Change management has been a topic for decades, but the solution is not in management as much as it is mindset. In today’s business companies have to spend more time convincing those they pay that the change or the decision to change is the right decision. The serve up principles says we must believe that those we work for have the visibility and knowledge that we don’t and we must believe their decision is the right decision; not because we should follow blindly like minions but because we believe in those we follow. The faster we can accept change, the faster we can implement change.

How is coaching your team serving your team?
A leader’s job is to make their team better not weaker. When a leader serves their team in the traditional sense of serving they tend to not hold employees accountable and believe their job is to help remove obstacles for their employees so they can do their job. A coach serves the team through coaching them which includes setting high expectations, teaching them not just the job but how to be better at the job. A coach’s number one goal is to make their people better and holding them accountable to always doing their best work every day. The best way to serve
those that follow you is to coach them, because coaching is a selfless and time-consuming commitment.

How does a Leader in the Middle remove the silo’s in an organization?
By learning to serve out. There are books on ‘corporate warfare’ and being the best. I believe that to be the best LIM or to lead the best team is not about blaming other departments, it is about serving other departments. It’s based on a belief that the more people you serve the more you will be served. When a LIM and their team commit to serving other departments by doing their job better and understanding how they can help the other departments, the other departments will follow. When the LIM shows the serve out behavior, their followers will do the same. Silos are created by leaders in the middle and they must be removed by the leaders in the middle.

Is this book relevant to all organizations?
To every organization that have leaders in the middle. Every organization that I have worked with or dealt with, on any level, has struggled with one or all of the issues in this book. I believe every organization would love to learn how to improve all of their leaders and build a stronger leadership and servant culture. I think every leader that leads another leader would agree that if their leaders below them would implement these principles they would see a greater success in their business and their people.

For more information on leadership speaker Nathan Jamail, contact Executive Speakers Bureau at (901) 754-9404.


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