In a world that is increasingly driven by technology and automation, it is logical that people gravitate toward tangible innovations and products that make an impact on their lives. This is particularly true for those of us who work directly in businesses that create and apply new technologies in their various forms.
With the preoccupation on exciting and cool technologies powering such things as smart phones, IoT, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, big data analytics, augmented reality, etc., it is easy to over-rotate on the innovation itself while overlooking the fact that it is still people who actually develop and consume technologies and drive businesses.
In fact, it is teams of people working together and aligned around a common purpose that lead, drive, finance, administer and grow these businesses. And, people still buy from people even in a tech-dominated and automated world. Moreover, people have deep emotional connections to brands, which are also created by people. Going a step further, it’s worth noting that technology alone is no longer a source of sustainable competitive advantage; rather, it is now often people – with their customer knowledge and intimacy that is difficult for the competition to replicate – who are providing the real durable advantage.
Given this simple truth about people, you would sensibly conclude that getting “the people thing right” should generally be considered the key underpinning and imperative to long-term success … even in a technology company. Yet, my observation is that this is not prioritized and effectively gets drowned out in the mechanics and short-term bias of everyday business life and the technology frenzy. Or worse, it is still delivered to employees in inauthentic platitudes with the mandatory tertiary mention in corporate mission statements proclaiming that “people are our most valuable asset” – while the actual experience for most employees is one of feeling very disconnected from the company’s purpose and promise.
I recall many mentors early in my career who imparted this particular wisdom on a regular basis. I nodded, but frankly I only ever comprehended this notion at a superficial level. I was too busy striving for short-term results. It took me a long time, multiple failures and several introspections for the penny to drop and realize what they were truly trying to tell me…“it really is all about the people” – at so many levels.
From experience, I now truly believe that if you embrace and authentically prioritize getting the people thing right, you dramatically increase your organization’s chances of success. It should therefore be the first order of priority for any leader, albeit one of the toughest ongoing challenges for any executive.
But what do we really mean by getting the people thing right?
We are all social creatures that require the right environment and interaction to develop and succeed. And, we certainly do not seem short of advice. We are constantly bombarded by endless propaganda espousing the latest fad theories for leadership, teamwork and productivity, much of which just adds to the noise and over-complicates what is very often just common sense -- like treating people how you would wish to be treated.
During the next few months I will explore this question of “getting the people thing right” in a series of blogs, drawing on some of my own learnings from a 35-year career in the global tech industry. I will examine some of the latest thinking and insights in an attempt to cut through the noise and hopefully provide some simple and useful perspectives on attracting, leading and creating successful teams.
I look forward to the dialogue.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson