18th January 2018

Get Good at People

At its heart the real difference between poor, mediocre, good and great businesses are the people. Their talents, skills and abilities at an individual level and how they organise themselves to effectively work together at a combined level.

When we employ someone all we can do is buy eight hours of his or her time. Whether they choose to bring their flair, enthusiasm, creativity and best self to the workplace is exactly that, their choice. We cannot command that that happens but I believe that one of the major effects of great leadership is that it encourages, rewards and inspires people to bring their best game to the situation each and every day to work in concert towards an inspiring mission. That would be true of all human endeavours, whether it be the local rowing club, the corner store or the biggest employer, by and large the success or failure of any human, communal endeavour depends upon the individuals that comprise that community bringing their best game to the mission more frequently, more consistently and more effectively.

I have ranted several times in these blogs recently about weak management, weak leadership, because, to me, it is offensive. It often prevents people from being at their best, it often punishes the committed in order to support the couldn’t care less and as such it is not only fundamentally wrong, but systemically damaging.

I said some weeks ago that I almost believe that people should be required to have a licence before they manage other people. Of course I don’t mean that. The last thing that we need in our overregulated, over legislated world is another raft of box ticking, however everyone who has influence over others, whether that be formal- by dint of a formal position- or informal, through a natural authority has an obligation to do so responsibly. To understand people and what matters to them.

It starts with us; each of us individually. We can never understand others if we don’t understand ourselves. The founder of NLP, Richard Bandler once commented in his book Using Your Brain For a Change that “People spend more time learning how to use a food processor than they do learning how to use their brains.”

The human brain and the human spirit contain phenomenal power. Individually there is prodigious power but when combined that power knows no bounds. So much of what we have is the result of that combined power over the ages. Surely we have a duty to understand how to harness and channel that power at an individual level and at a combined level, in other words to get good at people.

In the 21st century this technology shouldn’t be a mystery to any of us. Jim Collins said that if you don’t get good at people you won’t ever have a great company and suggested that we could start by reading biographies. He suggested everyone could start by reading 100 biographies. What is your personal plan to ‘get good at people’ I wonder?