People want to do their best work. And they want to know that they matter. The role of leadership is to create systems that enable people to do that work and set a tone in the company so that people feel on a daily basis that they are appreciated, both for their work and for who they are. Today, this is NOT normal. We are still living with the skeletons and ghosts of the industrial revolution where managers were brains and workers were hands, where schools were developed to prepare children to get used to leaving the autonomy and reward of working with their families at the farm for the anonymous and mindless routine of someone else’s factory.
At business school we are taught to look at numbers and profit as measures of our success and in HR we are taught to become emotionally detached so that we don’t get sued or hurt too much when a human resource is cut from the business and as leaders we are taught to be authoritarian parents that must always be smarter and faster than their children, offended when they do not submit to our will. And today THIS is normal. Even though the world has changed. Even though we’ve built machines to work in the factories. Even though it’s costing us our sanity. It’s costing time with our families. It’s costing those who are already poor. It’s costing our planet.
Today, when a leader sees a decline in productivity it’s “an accountability problem” or a “talent problem” or a “management problem” and the solutions typically come through some form of reward or punishment, pressure, blame, or budget. But these ‘problems’ aren’t the real problems so the solutions rarely last. They are symptoms.
By putting people first, we can learn what’s really going on that’s the problem. because human beings world wide are motivated by a just a few important things - to know that they can impact outcomes, most especially their own, through their actions; that they are good at what they do; and to feel care for and cared by others during much of their day. People know when they are blocked in their work, when they are being asked to do something they don’t have the skills or time to do, when they feel conflict and negativity in the work place. The solutions start with leadership mindset: what we believe about ourselves and others, how and what we communicate, how aware we are of what people need. The solutions end in the system design: the role definitions, the clarity of how decisions are made, how people are trained and developed, teams designed, information shared, and work rewarded. When these two things, leadership and systems are set up to meet the core needs of people–autonomy, mastery and connection–these same people now become the brains and sensory organs of the system, they understand what’s not working and then they go and fix it.
What’s good for people is good for business.