Solving the People Puzzle.

“The best thing any of us have to bring to leadership is our own transforming selves.”
— Ruth Haley Barton

I was enjoying a cup of coffee and light-hearted banter with a pastor friend at Starbucks when he grinned and leaned forward conspiratorially to whisper, "Church would be a great business...if it weren't for all the people." We shared a chuckle at the irony: the whole purpose of church is to serve people, and yet people are messy. We are complicated and fragile. Even pastors!

Both pastors and business leaders share a common challenge, and that is creating a culture where people can thrive. And when people don't thrive, sooner or later that shows up on the bottom line. 27% more absenteeism, 62% more accidents, 31% more turnover.* These are just a few of the casualties of people failing to thrive in the workplace. In contrast, when people come alive in their workplace, they work harder and make more money. It's not rocket science...but strangely, this common sense solution is elusive in most of the places we go to work every day.

So what is the solution? Let's go back to church for this one: Love your neighbor as yourself. Hard to improve on that. What does "loving your neighbor" look like in the workplace? Let's begin with our three most essential senses...

  1. See. Every team member wants to be seen. To be noticed, appreciated. To be seen as valuable and vital to the larger effort. To belong. How much time and money does this take? Surprisingly little--but it does take a keen eye and intentional action.
  2. Hear. Every team member wants to be heard, or to flip that around, people want to have a voice. They want to matter, to be an active contributor to something bigger than themselves. Companies often adopt the old parenting maxim that their people are to be seen and not heard...and it doesn't work any better on adults than it did on kids.
  3. Speak. Every team member wants to be spoken to in ways that are respectful and empowering. They want straight talk, timely information, and accountability. And when conflict arises, they want a way to work through the issues while preserving relationship.

Yes, people are often a puzzle. But with a little bit of attention and, dare I say "love," they find their fit in the larger community and begin to create a bigger, more beautiful picture. That's what I get to do every day--helping companies and leaders take care of their people. It's the best work there is.


*12: The Elements of Great Managing, by Wagner & Harter.

Posted on July 29, 2014 .