Your People ARE your greatest ASSET

How many times have you heard this statement?

And yet, does anyone – no, I mean, a single person – believe it?

If business leaders thought this then they would (inexorably) ‘walk the talk’ instead of paying it lip service.

Of course, in the current climate, everyone will, in a rather off-hand way, talk about market factors which militate against doing the right things by their staff i.e. pay them more, but, in my experience, rarely does it come down to money.

Ask yourself these questions:

How much time does your boss spend with you talking about anything other than him/herself or the business?

How interested are they in you or your family?

What is the ratio between admonishment and praise? I would be surprised if the ratio was not skewed firmly in the “you are crap” camp, with a dearth of “Thank Yous for a job well done” finding their way to you.

How does your boss talk to you? My experience is that things like servility and humility don’t rank very highly. Most leaders are well versed in the Holier-than-Thou school of diatribe.

How many actively seek you out and ask for your opinion on something?

Does your boss always want to have the last word?

Do any of your bosses practice diligently the art of servant leadership or are they looking for lots of Yes People?

When was the last time you were thanked for doing your job? There is way too much emphasis on the s/he excelled school of thought which misses the thousands and thousands of people who show up every day and try to do their best. Just because they are paid to do their job, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t thank them more than annually.

How many of your requests for training, time off or just to do something different are met with a hearty “NO”? It’s not just the finance department that likes to say no, practically every boss defaults to this setting when they have run out of patience with you.

Do you have someone who has been appointed Chief Hurdle Removal Office (hat tip to Tom Peters for this one)? You know the sort of person who has a can do attitude and doesn’t mind challenging the status quo of which they are part.

And finally, how many people do you report to who who lead by example and don’t talk, talk, talk and get nothing done?

The truth of the matter is that the industrial mindset of the last 200 years has conditioned every owner, leader or manager to treat people as a resource – expendable of course. We even have a named department (HR) which encapsulates the paradigm.

[Note: All Human Resources people should be charged with developing every single person to become the most of anything, even if this means helping them find a new job outside of the company]

I am big believer in putting your people more first than your clients or customers. Do that and everything else follows: a great product/service, word of mouth referrals and a business that prospers even in the most anaemic of times.

Most leaders have fallen victim to the notion that people are an expendable asset but cannot be surprised when they discover that most of their ill winds of failure can be traced back to a cohort of ‘workers’ who stopped caring.

This is not a riff on the lack of leadership (there is already too much written in that area) but rather the distillation of my lifetime of working for others.

When business leaders talk about getting closer to the consumer, for me that completely misses the point, particularly bearing in mind that so few leaders have the slightest interest in talking to consumers. No, if leaders want to make a real and significant difference to their business then they need to get closer, much closer to their people, listen to them (as if the company’s life-blood depended on it) and be willing to change their modus operandi. Absent that level of engagement then nothing will change.

I have no doubt that this is an area that I will be returning to again (and again) but for now don’t just sit and read this post. Do something. At the very least, start practising Managing by Wandering About (MBWA). It works on so many levels from the level of empathy to the number of calls (no emails please) that you make every day. If all you do is stay behind your desk, issuing one memo after another, then don’t expect much to change. Finally, if you have messed up in the past, don’t be afraid to swallow your pride, say sorry and accept that you need to get better.

If your people are your greatest asset then start treating them as if they were. Perhaps the greatest measure of this is the Golden Rule: Would you expect to be treated in the same way as you treat others?