People Were People Before They Were Your People

So this is a post that will likely cause me some trouble with the politically correct crowd. That’s because I’m going to rip on, just a little, all the new fancy titles we now see. Chief Inclusion Officer is one that comes to mind. Except some companies have decided “chief” is now offensive so they can’t use that title anymore. 

Companies seem to be in a rush to add titles with the words diversity, inclusion, equality and the like. There are so many “buzz word” titles floating around that I couldn’t possible mention them all. These companies are trying to prove that everyone in their organization is valuable. Which is a worthy thing to do. But I have a question.

Instead of endowing people with fancy titles that say “we care” how about actually caring? How about showing you care for everyone equally instead of saying it again and again?

I have tremendous faith in people’s ability to figure out if the place they work gives a damn about them. Somebody in the company with a progressive sounding job title isn’t going to fool them. 

Which brings me to more traditional sounding titles and departments. Like Human Resources. Or maybe a little more modern sounding Human Asset Management Department. Or my personal least favorite, Human Capital Resource Group. 

The problem with departments or groups with those names is it sets up the mindset that people should be managed like any other piece of capital or asset. I had the unhappy experience about 18 months ago of sitting next to a consultant during a dinner. We struck up a conversation about how their consultancy advises their clients. 

He said that when they recommend downsizing they look at job titles, work responsibilities, cost of “asset,” and how much longer the asset would be of value. They do not recommend the termination of anyone by name, that makes it too personal and may cause the management of the client company to hesitate. 

It’s sort of the same thought process as when a farmer won’t name a pig or a cow that they intend to eat one day. 

The consultant doesn’t really care how a client company thinks of their people, so long as they don’t think of them as people. They are merely assets or capital like a copier or computer. You pay them and you own them. 

But here’s the thing. They ARE people. They have always been people. They will always be people. You may pay them but you don’t own them. 

Businesses that forget that their primary business is the people business will not last. It makes no difference what you see or what you make, you are in the people business. Your people were people long before they were your people. 

It is beyond foolish for you as a leader to expect your people to care for your business or it’s customers when the best you can do is give someone in the company a new-age title that shows how progressive your organization is. People don’t care how progressive the company is when the people running the company don’t demonstrate that the company cares about them. 

When the company shows they care about their people, all their people, equally, they don’t need fancy titles. If the company fails to show they care about their people no amount of fancy titles will convince them otherwise. 

Inclusion, honoring diversity, and treating everyone equally won’t come from titles or committees, it comes from an Authentic Leader demonstrating those values on a daily basis. 

The Value of Differing Opinions

Almost every leader has “The One.” “The One” is their most trusted confidant or advisor. They are trusted above all others and play a key role in most, if not all, major decisions. 

 

That’s pretty normal since leaders are human beings and human beings are naturally closer to some people than others. Humans “click” with some people and keep them close by while distancing themselves (at least emotionally) from those that they simply don’t connect with.

 

While that’s perfectly normal that doesn’t mean it’s perfectly good. It is not!

 

It’s hard not to value the opinions of people who hold the same opinions as you. When a leader has someone who consistently agrees with them the leader feels better about their own thinking and over time values the opinion of that someone even more. 

 

But if you’re a leader you need to understand this absolute truth: if the person or people around you always agree with your thinking then it’s very likely that they are not thinking at all. You must understand that you can sometimes be wrong and that means that someone else could sometimes be right. 

 

While no leader will ever completely eliminate “The One” (nor should they) they do need to hear diverse opinions and different viewpoints in order to make as informed a decision as possible. Even if your “One” occasionally offers an opinion different than your own, a single different opinion is not enough.

 

Every person’s opinions and viewpoints are shaped by the events of their life. Their upbringing, their surroundings, their education, and their experiences all play a role in determining what they think and feel in any given situation. 

 

Now this might be a bit of an over-simplification but in general the greater the variety of opinions a leader receives the better their decision will be. 

 

The world is which business is conducted today is too diverse to consistently value one person’s opinion over all others. It greatly diminishes an organization’s potential and limits a leader’s options.

 

So, if you’re a leader who is relying too heavily on “The One” then begin today to seek out differing viewpoints from a variety of people….before it is too late. 

 

You will know it’s too late when you finally ask for input and receive mostly silence in return. You may be tempted to think that the silence means agreement but that’s a huge mistake. Silence is almost never agreement. 

 

What the silence usually means is that the people who you need to share their insights have determined there is no upside to sharing their opinion. It makes no sense to expose your thinking when you are fairly certain that your thinking will be “out-voted” by “The One.”


When votes don’t count smart people stop voting and it doesn’t take long for smart people to realize their vote doesn’t count. 

How Leaders Think

First a couple of qualifiers: not all leaders think the same and not all leaders are always thinking about the things discussed in this post. But generally speaking, all successful leaders think in these terms and while they have many other thoughts, at one time or another these things are top of mind. So here we go….

Great leaders focus on the mission. Leaders are frequently pulled toward unusual and urgent events that force them in different directions. While these often require the attention of the leader they don’t lose sight of the higher intent of the organization. When the challenge has been dealt with they return their focus to the mission and purpose of the organization. They know where they need to go and they have an actionable plan to get there. They think mission first!

Great leaders are great coaches. They actively look for opportunities to coach their people with the goal of growing more leaders. They coach for corrective action and they coach for positive reinforcement. They delegate to grow their people knowing full well that mistakes might be made. Great leaders also know that those mistakes provide highly valued learning opportunities. Great leaders think coaching, coaching, coaching. 

Great leaders are great examples. They know that people will do what they see their leaders doing. They know that they are the example of successful behavior for their people. They understand that they set the example of good character, knowing their job and doing what matters. They preform as they would have their people perform and they do not expect more from their people then they expect of themselves. Great leaders know the way, go the way and lead the way. Great leaders think in terms of setting an example as much or more than they think of anything else.

Great leaders value and leverage diversity. They know that true diversity goes beyond Equal Employment and Affirmative Action laws. True diversity is understanding, valuing, and leveraging the differences in every person. They seek out differing opinions from people with different backgrounds and demonstrate that people are valued for their uniqueness. Great leaders know that to continue their personal growth they must interact with people who have opinions different from their own and who feel empowered to express them. Great leaders think about broadening the diversity of their organizations. 

Great leaders accept risk. They accept well considered, well calculated risks. They don’t act with reckless abandon, they gather facts, they measure, they ask for advice and then they decide. They decide. They decide, that means that they make a decision. Great leaders know that all the facts, all the advice and all the opinions in the world don’t amount to much if a decision is never made. They think risk and they think about when and why to take them.

The simple truth is that leaders think differently than followers. Leaders see a bigger picture and they see farther into the future. Leadership is as much about mindset as it is anything, if you want to lead then start thinking (and acting) like a leader.