I was all set to write a really clever, intelligent, and droll essay on one of the four Compass Points in organizations, namely, People. I had some pretty great anecdotes and wisdom to share. As I kept at it, the post become longer, less organized, and off the main point. I lost site of what I wanted to write in favor of perhaps looking smart, or perhaps trying too hard.
Here’s the main and probably most obvious, thing: The people within our organizations, more than anything else, shape and define those organizations. Because of that, people are our greatest asset and biggest liabilities. This living reality shapes every decision we make, and every action we take as leaders in our companies. We inspire and infuriate one another, we respect and rebuke one another, and we love and loathe one another, sometimes in the course of one conversation.
At my worst times, I wonder how individuals in an organization can’t seem to get it together for a common purpose. Why is it so hard to (1) recognize we are all in the same boat, (2) agree on common goals that drive direction, and (3) move forward in that direction? Because within our organizations exist human beings, and each one of us is an independent, thinking agent with a backstory and an agenda. We are only human, fallen, broken, and fallible. Our thought-lives, histories, health, and emotions all influence what we do at any given time. Most of us are good at managing our inner selves, but sometimes our messes still spill out sideways at really inconvenient times.
There are thousands of books, seminars, podcasts, and essays written about how to effectively manage and lead the individuals within our organizations. One sobering conclusion of the vast majority of those publications is this: If you cannot effectively control the people within, then the people outside will want nothing to do with your company. Why? Because the individuals within your organization are your greatest asset and your biggest liabilities. They really are you.
Whatever we allow to happen means that we place significant value on that. You have an employee who is chronically late? Then you value tardiness. You have an employee who consistently uses vulgar language? Then you value vulgar language. You have an employee who goes above and beyond every time? Then you value hard work and effort.
Our main job as managers and leaders is to get our people on the bus, and then to keep that bus moving where it needs to go. If people refuse to go where the bus is headed, then they need to get off of it. If, after a period of coaching or redirecting, they still aren’t with us, they need to go. Fortunately, many of our colleagues and employees will do what they are supposed to just because it’s the right thing to do, and because they get paid to do so.
Why? The people we lead are a reflection of us and of our organizations. The behaviors we tolerate are the things we value. People are our greatest asset and biggest liabilities.
Finally, there are no easy answers to leading and managing people. In fact, it is really, really difficult to do so. That’s one of the reasons so much has been published on the subject, and will continue to be published. What I do know is that everything that really matters begins and ends with our people. What I would encourage leaders to do is the study the basics of behavioral economics, brain development, and coaching the mental game. I will list some of the books I have in my library pertaining to these in an upcoming post.