Monday, August 22, 2016

5 Guiding Principles for Managing Talent As If People Really Mattered

“No matter how you treat people they’re going to complain. You might as well treat them badly.” My boss at the time made this matter-of-fact utterance to no one in particular for a reason I can’t recall. But I remember it 25 years later. That speaks to how these words captured what I felt was the core belief of that employer and future ones.

That boss swore and yelled at staff. Another was a micromanager; the next did all of the talking but none of the listening. Finally, there was the narcissist. 

In retrospect I see how I barely survived these work experiences. My emotional intelligence at the time was no match for the toxicity I encountered. Yet I did survive. I made mistakes but I learned from each experience. 

All the while, I longed for a true work-based community—one where employees were treated ethically and fairly. At the same time they worked tirelessly to fulfill the organization’s mission. This organization is one where people really do matter. The workplace is comfortable, safe, and conducive to getting things done. People like to be there. Employees enjoy interactions with each other and management. In-fighting and office politics are minimal. Conflict is seen as an opportunity for learning and is embraced, not avoided. Authenticity is cherished. 
Five guiding principles inspire how this organization manages its talent. They are as follows:

  1. Everyone in the organization acts as a person first and an employee second. Job titles don’t excuse illegal, inappropriate, or unprofessional behavior. Moreover, personal issues take precedence over professional ones. That means employees can tend to significant life events without fear of retaliation.  
  2. Employers and employees thrive in a mutually beneficial relationship. It’s based on trust, respect, and accountability.  
  3. Work provides a vehicle for employees to maximize their potential.
  4. It’s a priority for employers to help employees to succeed. When employees succeed, the employer succeeds. 
  5. Employees receive regular feedback on their performance. Changes in roles or responsibilities are not surprises. They’ve been addressed in previous conversations.   

I’m describing an organization that places a premium on communication and collaboration. I recognize these concepts are easier to embrace in good times. Yet they’re especially critical when something does not go according to plan. Managers and employees in this organization will respond with a solutions-oriented mindset. They’ll forgo the need to throw someone under the bus or make him/her a scapegoat. Individual and/or group responsibility, if any, can be addressed when the situation has stabilized. 

You may consider my perspectives outlined here idealistic if not na├»ve. I nonetheless remain committed to find or otherwise manifest such an organization. It’s where I wish to devote my professional energies in the not-too-distant future. 

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