It’s The People, Stupid.

As leaders and leaders-in-training, our focus has long been the bottomline: “How can I meet our team/business/organizational goals?” Success has equated to how much money we bring in, how many people we’ve been able to talk to, minister to, or compel to do something. We categorize leaders as effective when their product comes in on time, under budget, and exceeding expectations.

But I propose, as leaders, we don’t get measured against any of those things.

Yes, the bottom line is important. And if our business isn’t selling enough widgets, we close our doors. But let the managers and the accountants make sure that those things are happening.

As leaders, our job is to focus on the people–inspiring them, training them, using their strengths, tapping into their passions, and helping them be productive members of the team.

Leadership is about people.

Who Are They?

Leaders, get to know your people. Know their names. If you’re not good with names, get good with names. Know what motivates them, what their family situation is, when their birthday is.

Where Are They?

The term “Management By Walking Around” (MBWA — a real term, seriously!) was invented to describe the management style where a leader takes the time to go to the team member’s workspace and inquire about them, how they are doing, get to know them and how they do their job. Abraham Lincoln was a big proponent of this, and was one of the first presidents to informally visit troops rather than inspect them in a rigid fashion. “MBWA” allows a leader to get to see how his/her team is operating without having to resort to status updates or formal reports.

What Are Their Passions & Skills?

You can’t effectively lead people and use their skills unless you know what those skills are. As you get to know your team members, you will realize where they are most useful and what tasks they shouldn’t be assigned. You’ll get to understand their strengths and weaknesses and be better informed as to where to plug them in.

How Can I Develop Them?

If you focus on improving their skills, rejuvenating their passions, and making them better people, they will contribute more readily to the overall mission and vision of your team. Let them get the training they need… allow them time to deepen their understanding of their job, the team, and where they fit in to the big picture.

I know, this is a big departure from my normal “Work Hard, Demand Excellence” theme here. But those standards still apply. We just also have to remember that our team will strive to do their best, will work towards the common goal, only when they realize that we as leaders care. And helping people is what leaders do. Whether that’s a consumer, a producer, a volunteer, or an employee, we have to realize that our job is the people, not the product.

Do you agree?



Photo Courtesy of “80.000 Hours”