We are all in the people business.

We are all in the people business – yes all of us!

What industry are we in here? Are we in the retail business, are we in the sales business or the people business? What are we doing here?

This was the leadership conversation we had today. The truth of it is clear to me, but some in the group see it more straightforward than others. For example, some see it as being in the results business. I understand that perspective, but, yep, there is a but… that perspective does frustrate me.

Maybe I am making it too simplistic by saying we are in the people business, but then again, I frame everything as being in the people business. Because I fecken believe that to the very core of my being. You take just about anything, and you will be able to pare it back to ‘being in the people business.’

If you are selling umbrellas, then you are in the people business. If you are manufacturing refrigerators, then, again, you are in the people business. If you are running a top restaurant, then you are in the people business. If you are sending someone into space on a commercial rocket – yer in the people business mate. You get the idea.

“The primary job of each manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop. Managers achieve this through support, respect, and trust.”

Bill Campbell: Trillion Dollar Coach

Suppose you are framing whatever you are doing as being in the people business. In that case, you need to go that one stage further and work out what type of people business you are in. 

Suppose you are into blagging sales without due care for the customer or the employee. In that case, you are in the ‘ripping people off people business’. That is one business to be in; that’s ok, but be clear in what people model you are engaged in. Don’t romanticise it. Call it for what it is and reward the cutthroat employees accordingly.

If you are driving for results at all cost and focus the team on that without any due care. Then you are on the ‘exhausting every ounce out of your team people business’, and that has an outcome measured in many ways. Try incentivising that… they won’t give a feck, and incentives are for the fittest. The others, not so fit, are trying to survive

Suppose you are interested in getting suitable options for your customer so that they build a long-standing relationship with your company. In that case, you are in the ‘customer relationship people business’, and you can shape your teams to appreciate and engage in that model. You can incentivise them accordingly to this design. Things might just match up well for everyone.

Suppose you are engaging and listening to your people and supporting them in all of their future aspirations and career goals. In that case, you are in the ‘growing great people business’, which is an exciting business to be a part of. So build a broad incentive that recognises and rewards the person who brings their whole self to the job. This is edging on a jackpot level of payout of connection for everyone involved

No bias there. Wink. Wink.

The challenge to all of this comes when you get the people business you are in mixed up with the incentive scheme from the other. That is a fecking mess, but many company’s do incentivise in this way. But, unfortunately, they create a complete mismatch of an incentive scheme that rewards the completely opposite behaviour from the organisation’s values. 

When that happens, the organisation needs to do one of two things. Either it changes its incentive schemes to reflect the perceived company culture, or it stands up and gets honest with its values and calls it for what it is. They do not match and so they shift their value system – never an easy task.

The outcome of all of this is you have to incentivise your team in the right way to generate the correct behaviours.

That’s if you have to incentivise your people at all. There are better ways to engage people when you are in the people business, and you can achieve the same, if not better, results…

…with a whole lot less of the industry.


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