I’ve read two different posts in the past few weeks that caused me to think about how we treat people in the workplace. The first was actually a series written by Chad Balthrop about the trap of Transactional Leadership. Sometimes, many times, we view our personal interactions as transactions and our language exposes that belief. The second was a post by Tristan Bishop on how focusing on your purpose improves your productivity.
What is the purpose of a business?
I also wrote some time back about the most noble purpose of a business. Contrary to popular opinion, the most noble purpose of a business isn’t to make a profit. The most noble purpose of a business is to make it’s people profitable. In the post The Call of a Manager, I said the highest call of a middle manager is, “Understand the intricacies of the relationship between your team and your organization and make sure both parties win.” Win-Win is the only sustainable business model. When we make our people profitable, our organization wins. Any organization that wins at the expense of its people will eventually lose. Any people who win at the expense of their organization also eventually lose.
The most noble purpose of an organization is the success of its people.
Therefore, the purpose of an organization is to create an environment where its people thrive. The organization must avoid the idea that people are an asset. People are the reason, profit is an asset. The highest call of a leader is to help people work together to create a profit that in-turn is used to reward those same people. Leaders must hold employees, vendors AND customers accountable for their part of the formula. Leaders fight for the relationship that ultimately rewards the very people who create the value.
The people involved also have a responsibility. Each employee or associate must perform their job well enough for the organization to achieve profitability. Employee engagement is a current buzzword, but it must spring from the employee’s side of the relationship. Seth Godin called it emotional labor in his great book, Linchpin. They must bring their mind, their energy and their ideas. They must be willing to go above and beyond the call for the good of the organization but that seldom happens when the organization simply consumes all of the gain. If the organization’s leadership is viewed as “they” rather than “us,” that becomes much more difficult. People must remember that their effort rewards the group and when they slack, it hurts the group.
5 Steps to Elevate (even rescue!) Your Purpose
I’m sure yours is a win-win company, but just in case you know some others with turnover problems, disengaged employees, or other symptoms of a win-lose company, you can pass these 5 steps along.
- Decide today to be a win-win organization for your people. Make a written declaration. Get on record.
- Ask how your people win. Find ways to make your employees winners. Reward people according to the value they create and enable them to create as much value as possible. They give their life to your organization. Honor their service. Even for difficult jobs, you can help improve the value your people derive from their jobs by helping them with their personal dreams. Check out The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly for some great ideas.
- Re-align jobs and responsibilities to enable the most people to win. Create career paths that energize people for creating additional value. Instead of rewarding longevity, reward applied experience such as rewards for training, documentation or excellent performance or zero defects.
- Change anything possible to make difficult jobs rewarding. Put them on a better career path. Clearly define success. Set a specific end date for the job so the person doing it has something to look forward to. Make them part of a team and rotate the bad jobs with more rewarding jobs.
- Stop rewarding under-performers. Set clear, distinct, measurable goals for your people and reward people according to the value they create. People who consistently under-perform must be corrected or asked to leave. If you provide a safe haven for under-performers, after a while, that is all you’ll have.
People are the reason for a profitable business. Nothing else. Make others’ lives better and elevate your purpose.
What other suggestions do you have? Does this model work in light of the labor / management issues currently in the news in the NFL or the Wisconsin state government? What are your thoughts?