You're not bigger than your people - seriously you're not!

If you ever start thinking that you are bigger than your people – stop! You’re not. I have written about companies who say “their people are their biggest asset” and then proceed to talk about the bottom line and guest complaints with no mention of their people (remember that oh so valuable asset we just talked about?). I have been in way too many of those meetings.

You can’t manage what is inherently within someone. Yes people who are passionate about what they do and “live” customer service on a different frequency than us “normal” people often do things that we don’t understand and that is alright. It is not fair, right or really even acceptable to expect people to think act and deliver like “you.”

There are companies out there who are brave enough to let people be themselves, make decisions and empower them to do what they believe is right. And guess what – they are generally very successful businesses. The truth is your people know what your guests want – not the people who sit in an office all day and create policy around what they think the guests wants.

Has anyone been watching “Undercover Boss?” There was one episode where they CEO of 7-11 worked in different aspects of the business. He chose to go into one store that has the highest coffee sales in the company because he wanted to see what they were doing to drive the business. What he discovered was that it wasn’t what “they” were doing to drive business but a “who!” It was one lady who had been there for over 10 years. She knew every person who came in by name, offered hugs and made it a real experience for everyone. She was the only reason for that particular store’s sales – full stop. It was not a head office policy; it was not the training or even the special blend of coffee. It was her.

If she left the sales at that 7-11 would plummet and where ever she went, well their sales would go up – in a hurry. And head office would talk to the franchisee and ask what happened, how can we get that business back, where did we go wrong? The answer is simple – go get that employee back!

Your people are your biggest asset. Treat them like your prized possession. How do you treat what is important to you in you life (even when it acts up)?

Views: 124

Comment by Ambrish Kochikar on March 4, 2010 at 10:18am
Well written to expand on a single point. However, Corey, this applies to some but not all types of businesses. There are business out there that are bigger than their people. Among the ideas that create differences between those that are and those that aren't, is what is referred to as a 'best practice'. (A best practice is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive, or reward that is believed to be more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. when applied to a particular condition or circumstance. -Wikipedia)

Smart businesses go out of their way not to keep the best people, but to keep the 'best practices'. There is nothing preventing a 7-11, or a Starbucks from establishing that 'smile-hello-hug-shake-come back again' as a best practice and enforce adoption across its franchises.

Does this mean that people are essentially disposable? Absolutely not! Smart managers will keep the innovative and motivated ones around for as long as their net contributions (good work, good ideas, good results LESS disharmony, poor habits, politics, etc.) are in the black.
Comment by Corey Harlock on March 4, 2010 at 10:54am
Ambrish - thank you for the comment.

The term "Best Practice" in my industry means as much as the paper it is written on. It certainly is a "buzz term" but just like a Culture or Mission Statement, Best Practices only work when they are "lived" from the top. Meaning that the execs not just beleive in them but live them everyday.

The old saying "hire for attitude and train for skills" still holds true - you can teach someone to make coffee but you can not train them to "smile" or be nice - that has to be within them.

I am sorry to disagree but Best Practices is often just another buzz term to manipulate people to do the things you are unable to do.

I want to be clear - I do beleive in policy, procedure and a level of expectation - don't get me wrong. I do live in the west but I am not a Cowboy! But when companies stop learning form thier front liners and think they know what is best, they might be missing the point. It takes courage for a CEO to listen to the little people and acknowledge thier ideas.
Comment by Peter Ceccarelli on March 4, 2010 at 2:29pm
I am sorry to disagree but Best Practices is often just another buzz term to manipulate people to do the things you are unable to do.

I want to be clear - I do beleive in policy, procedure and a level of expectation - don't get me wrong. I do live in the west but I am not a Cowboy! But when companies stop learning form thier front liners and think they know what is best, they might be missing the point. It takes courage for a CEO to listen to the little people and acknowledge thier ideas.

The above are two of the best paragraphs I've ever read on this blog site. Nice job. And so true. Great post. You hit it on the head of the nail.
Comment by Ralph Leon on March 4, 2010 at 7:36pm
I think this is a great example of good branding. When large companies brand they can't leave out anyone including the lower level workers. It is these employees that are interacting with the customers and they are representing the brand as well. Once a company forgets that, the strength of the brand is lost. A good company is run collectively, not segmented. Though each industry varies in terms of this holistic approach, but for the most part it runs true to the majority. Great article Corey
Comment by Steven Coyne on March 5, 2010 at 1:27pm
Corey:
Thank you so much for this article and your perspective. The premise I live by, as a recruiter, is that "It's Not About Me" Who gives a rip about the growing numbers in my LinkedIn group? Who gives a rip about the number of placements I've made this year?(the people I placed do, but the focus was always on them to begin with), and who gives a rip if I have a blog...The question is, whether a company or individual, who are you concerned about, the individual or the bottom line? Sure, companies get caught up in that money making thing, but if, in most cases, it wasn't for a multitude of individuals with talents and skills and determination and dedication, where would a company be?

So where do we re-start? We all get revitalized about this issue and begin to focus on someone other than ourselves. When you keep your eyes on just yourself, all you get is crosseyed, but if you take your focus off of you, and consider things like "Paying It Forward" and the term "What goes around, comes around, the benefits realized may prove to be overwhelming, for you and your people!

I'm 6'8" tall, and this thing I do is still bigger than me (LOL), but I've seen the results of focusing on others first. I have been attempting to help one candidate of mine find a job for a period of about 6 months, with no luck. Because she just accepted a position that she found on her own, with a company where she will do the hiring, guess who she'll come to with her hiring needs???

It's not about me! Once I focus on the fees I might be paid for placing candidates, I loose touch with the most important person in the mix...the candidate!
Comment by tdumas on March 5, 2010 at 1:58pm
Corey, you are right on it. In my business, I am branding, management and culture developer. Where would a company be without products or services to offer their clients. Now, who do you suppose persuade, enlighten and/or suggest clients to purchase offered products or services. For anyone or any company feel that the fancy logos...catching jingles will attract or retain clients....you have better do your homework and think again......this is a new era on how business should be conducted.....and those that think otherwise, have better to think again.
Comment by Corey Harlock on March 5, 2010 at 2:06pm
Steve, thanks for the great comment. It is funny how when I post something with the hopes of getting a "reaction" i usually don't get the one I am after. I seem to get support rather than challenged! I guess my next question is..... if this "new age" thinking is so common, why is know one doing it?
Comment by Steven Coyne on March 5, 2010 at 3:00pm
Cory:
I think that there are people "doing it." There are just so few, that it's like finding a needle in a haystack. Those of us who turely take your article to heart can be a great influence to those who are still doing business the same old way.

We need to start a "Think of Someone Else First" campaing.
Comment by Corey Harlock on March 5, 2010 at 3:03pm
I'm in! I'll take the Northern Territory and you can have the States. Anyone else want a piece of this action??? Anyone?
Comment by Sean Gaudun on March 5, 2010 at 3:10pm
Great Post Corey,

What you've discussed seems obvious to me although not for some others funny enough. Thanks for the reminder, I've seen commercials for "Undercover Boss" but have not had a chance to watch it yet.

To my good man Ambrish, you unfortuantely lost me with your last two paragraphs. I used to think this way when I was in school but realized over time that systems and policy that are driven by people are certainly more comparable to the spirit of English than the predicatablity of Math.

"Smart businesses go out of their way not to keep the best people, but to keep the 'best practices'. There is nothing preventing a 7-11, or a Starbucks from establishing that 'smile-hello-hug-shake-come back again' as a best practice and enforce adoption across its franchises.
Does this mean that people are essentially disposable? Absolutely not! Smart managers will keep the innovative and motivated ones around for as long as their net contributions (good work, good ideas, good results LESS disharmony, poor habits, politics, etc.) are in the black."

WIth all due respect I found this souless and broken. That's just not how life or business works. Everyone can be taught to run...left foot, right foot, but it only occasionally translates into brilliance and speed.

Most irreplaceable people are oftentimes passionate pillars in a house of pragmatic cards.

S

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