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The people imperative: Are you really treating your people as your ‘greatest asset’?

Search a handful of random company websites across the globe, click on the ‘About Us’ page and you’re likely to see statements like ‘our people are our greatest asset’, ‘without our people, we are nothing’ or ‘putting our people first’. In some cases, this is demonstrably true. In far too many, it simply isn’t.

We’ve worked with large and small businesses where Leaders have been at the forefront of driving initiatives devised in conjunction with their people. A great example is a large international food business for whom we delivered a mentoring programme. The company in question devised a number of workshops and events in conjunction with their people and gave them the freedom to choose whichever events or workshops they wished. Our mentoring workshop featured on the list and about 30 people voluntarily participated in the programme. It’s this culture (to which schemes like our mentoring workshop contribute) that allows people in the company, from a new starter on the production line to the multi-millionaire founders, to connect on levels they never thought possible. It’s enriched the sense of belonging and understanding between colleagues and has contributed to a sense of satisfaction in one’s work- increasing productivity as a result.

What of the companies who don’t live by the strapline on their website or marketing literature? Unfortunately the number of companies who state the importance of putting their people first but who fail to live by this mantra is far greater than the above example. This could be for a number of reasons:

1. The company may well wish to put their people first but have no idea what this means, where to start or how to maintain it.

2. Various people within the business may well believe this is already happening (this disconnect is a problem in it’s own right) and therefore are unaware their desire to harbour a positive culture is not filtering down the chain of command.

3. It’s nothing more than a marketing strap-line and is totally meaningless.

4. The culture does not allow it.

Whatever the reason, there are tangible ways in which a company can achieve their desire of putting people first. Like most challenges the first step is to acknowledge the challenge exists. This inner reflection may not be comfortable or free from critical feedback, but it is necessary. Too many leaders still live in the wake of leaders before them where a tell or direct management style pervades their thoughts and actions. Breaking out of this rigid thought process can be not only liberating for the leader or manager, but it affords freedom and respect to your people who in turn will give you and your stakeholders more. Working with purpose is far more powerful and productive than being present in body but not in mind.

It’s also not the preserve for celebrity managers or gurus; anybody can do it. You may be a manager of several years or decades, or newly promoted to lead others, what ever your circumstances or situation you can make a positive difference to others.

Being open to change yourself and therefore the way you lead can be extremely powerful and rewarding. It starts by accepting that change is needed. It takes courage to explore this new idea, and you will be opening yourself up in ways you perhaps you wouldn’t before. It is however extremely powerful. Showing your people the best of yourself encourages them to be the same. A cohesive, well organised and motivated team of people, lead in a similar manner will have far-reaching positive effects on your whole organisation and anybody coming into contact with it.

Are you really ‘putting your people first’?

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