Empowerment Play: Why You Should Put People First
Organizations today are moving and reacting to their environments far more quickly than ever before. While this increased speed has led to tremendous gains in the ability of businesses to take advantage of new opportunities, it has also created a workforce that is increasingly confused, disenfranchised, and out of touch with the fundamental values that mater most to them, their coworkers, and even the organizations itself.
But even as employees look for meaning, many bosses put the primary focus on profits, percentages, and production; their people are secondary, or worse.
This isn't sustainable. To thrive over the long term, leaders must transform their organizations, moving from bureaucratic, profit-centered businesses to empowered, people-centered businesses filled with positive energy. When you put your people first, profits will follow. Here are 7 steps for building a people-centered business.
1. Divine the Organization's True Vision
Every organization has its own unique culture, made up of its values, its attitudes, its history, and its collective consciousness. People-centered leaders are master of divining an organization’s culture, and then seeing a true vision of what paths the organization and its members should take to match its culture with its clients, customers, employees, and other business partners.
2. Focus on Values
While it's true that businesses exist primarily to make money for their owners and shareholders, for any company to continue to succeed in the future, leaders must stop focusing on money and profit at the expense of employees and other business partners. Look into your heart to find the values that really count--respect, love, and trust--and strike a balance between the company’s need to make a profit and the need of employees and other business partners to prosper in both a spiritual and financial sense.
3. Mentorship Matters
We have much to learn from those who have walked in the paths we now tread. Employees benefit enormously from mentorship. Great leaders make time for this, knowing that it will be a boon to the productivity and effectiveness not only of those they mentor (or arrange mentorships for), but the entire company.
4. Encourage Self-Leadership
We can all accomplish great things if we simply unleash the energy within us. No matter where they are in an organization's hierarchy, from the lowest-paid mailroom clerk to the highest-paid senior executive, employees must take action themselves and not depend on or expect others to take action on their behalf.
5. Involve Employees in the Transformation
By encouraging cooperation, creating opportunities for teamwork, and making free-and-open communication a reality instead of simply a goal, you will not only create a vision of the future but provide the necessary information and tools to achieve it--enabling every employee to express his or her highest levels of innovation and productivity.
6. Build Bridges of Trust
Effective business relationships are built on a strong foundation of trust. Build bridges of trust among all employees through mutual respect. Guide your people along a path of positive energy comprising mutual support and cooperation rather than a path of negative energy that often hobbles even the best of organizations.
7. Create a Body of Knowledge
As a leader you have a duty to share your knowledge with all the members of the community in which you work. All great leaders not only give their people the tools they need to create positive change within and without them, but they create a body of knowledge that will help others along their own paths in the absence of the leader.
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While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.