A Professor Pushes the People Factor

According to Henry Mintzberg of McGill University in Montreal, the business world needs a new trend, "one that is broader, more humanistic, and open to human beings." And while this sounds lofty when compared to the day-to-day realities of our work lives, in fact nothing could be more down to earth.

More precisely, here's what Mintzberg means: Treating people with respect; challenging them to think creatively; creating for them opportunities to do important work; and recognizing their efforts with rewards that they find meaningful—those actions are what really motivate people.

Getting people to work well as a team, designing with them ways to grow personally and professionally, gathering them together in effective meetings and guaranteeing a solid work/life balance, will keep them motivated—even during the most difficult of times.
To assess whether or not you are a follower of this trend, do the following:

Ask yourself: Am I civil in my dealings with people at work? Do I give them the respect that I expect to get from them? Do I actively prod them to think in new and innovative ways? Am I constantly evaluating work assignments to make sure I give them the duties that they will find important and fitting to their competencies? Do I recognize and reward them for their efforts, and give feedback, whether or not they succeeded?

Ask your employees: Do you see me as someone who understands team dynamics and is comfortable being a team leader? Do you believe that I am your advocate, always thinking of ways to help you grow as a person and a professional? Are the meetings we hold valuable to you? How do you feel about the general environment I create? Is there a solid balance between your work and the rest of your life, and what can I do to help?

Questions like these get to the heart of the trend Mintzberg talks about. It puts caring for people front and center in the debate on what leaders should do to really make business move forward.

But how do we know that this is what works? Studies show that the extent to which companies care about their people, and the degree to which employees trust their leaders, are at least twice as important as pay and three times as important as benefits to those involved!

What about the opposite (and seemingly more common) situation, when leaders demonstrate anything but these caring behaviors at work, and manage with only the task in mind, not the people? Beside the bruised feelings, there really is a bottom-line downside. According to Stanford University professor Robert Sutton, Ph.D., the cost to the business of one such "bad" leader is around $160,000 over one year. In a business of a thousand people, costs could be as high as $750,000. If there is an average of two witnesses for each victim, and 20 percent decide to leave, the total replacement cost is just shy of $2 million per year!

The conclusion: There is no doubt that we know what works in business. And now, we can prove it quantitatively. All that remains is for leaders to step up to the plate and embrace this passion for people as their business model. Have you taken that step?

A large part of being a manager is knowing how much you can't do—and ensuring that those things get done anyway. In the new book Mayday! Asking for Help in Times of Need (Berrett-Kohler Publishers; $15.95), business coach M. Nora Klaver shows managers how to overcome psychological factors that make them think asking for help is a sign of weakness. She provides seven steps for figuring out whom to ask for assistance, when to ask, what to ask for, and how to do it. The author describes the book as an "anti-self-help" tome that actually makes you a more effective, less stressed manager.

Dr. Tom McDonald, a Ph.D. in psychology, speaks on "People Skills" needed for "Business Results." Reach him in San Diego at (858) 523-0883 or [email protected], or visit www.drtommcdonald.com.