You see, people in a business are much like any other asset. For example: vehicles. Every week vehicles are cleaned, because it’s the brand being driven up and down the highways and byways. They are serviced and maintained regularly.
In short, you give vehicles you’re the right amount of attention.
I’m not suggesting a business should hose down its staff every week or treat them as commodities to be bought and sold. What I’m saying is that, if people really are the most important element of any business, then we must pay as much attention to them as we do other assets… actually, if they are the most important asset, they should get more attention!
So why is this not always the case?
There are many reasons; almost as many as there are businesses. Nearly all boil down to one thing in the cold light of day: confidence.
Thinking back to when I left school, oh, almost five years ago (did I say five years? I actually meant twenty five) I wanted to be a pilot and then, when I realised that the Recruiting Sergeant was shaking his head at my bottle bottom glasses, I wanted to be a banker. The point is that my careers teacher never said to me, ‘why don’t you consider becoming a professional people manager?’
Because that’s exactly what managing people is… a professional discipline.
And yet, when I left corporate life, I knew pretty much nothing about managing people. I knew how to lend money and look after customers. I even knew how to create a set of accounts. I knew all these things because they were the technical aspects of what I did. But, because the bank had been around for a couple of hundred years and everybody knew what they had to do, I didn’t have to think too much about ‘management’. Almost everything was managed centrally.
When I employed staff I was hopelessly unprepared for what I needed to do. I had to recruit, pay, motivate, discipline, train and even fire them… and all this with increasingly tough employment legislation. When the team reached seven people it was almost a full time job, even though I was still doing everything else in the business, too.
And that’s when it dawned on me. People were my full time job. I was no longer a technical manager, I had moved on. I was a people manager and my only responsibility was to get them to achieve our targets using the range of tools (pay, motivation, discipline, etc.) that I had at my disposal.
So, when you next get a choice between a technical task and helping a member of staff, remember which one is the most important asset!