People are the job

Mon, Aug 15, 2022       3-minute read

When we manage teams and lead people, it is easy to assume that our job is concerned only with the production of whatever service or thing our organisation sells. As managers, we are generally taught to think of people as interchangeable cogs in the machine of our company, and that our role is to ensure those cogs are generic enough that any of them can be swapped out to keep the machine running smoothly. This way of thinking is a remnant of the Industrial Revolution, when cogs in a machine was a literal thing.

But that is no longer the world in which we live. One has to wonder, as a manager, how much value is actually being lost when the status quo is to grind creative workers down effectively to robots and not to focus on their individual quirks and requirements?

The question is: How do you get the most out of your people; to enable their best quality work? Do you threaten their job security? Dangle vague promises of bonuses in front of them? Just plain micromanage them?

I hope not.

To get the best work out of people, you merely need to understand what it is they need in order to do the best possible work. It is very simple. They’re grown adults; just ask them.

Do they need a laptop that doesn’t take 30 seconds to open Excel? Get it for them and watch the reports they produce increase in both quantity and quality!

Do they need to take half an hour out each day to drop their kids off at school? Let them do it, and watch in awe as their stress melts away and they come into work 100% focused on the task at hand.

Do they need peace of mind over an HR issue that is keeping them up at night? Resolve it promptly and foster a long-term sense of loyalty as they see that you view them as individuals whose priorities matter to you.

None of these things cost much. A new laptop might set you back a couple of thousand pounds or dollars, but you will almost always make that back in the revenue you are no longer losing due to slow, inefficient working. The same is true of most material goods that someone needs in order to do their job—the return on investment usually comes swiftly. And the rest? It’s all just a matter of spending some of your time.

And that’s the crux of it all. If you think your job is to Ensure The Thing Gets Done, then take a step back and think about how that thing gets done. Yes, it is done by a person performing some physical actions, but what is the difference between them performing those actions to a high quality and to a low quality? Whatever it is, that is your priority.

Everything we do as managers and leaders relates to people. And we would do well to remind ourselves of that, every single day.