They’re Not Employees, They’re People

The theme of today’s conversation is “They’re not employees, they’re people.”

That’s interesting. That’s what Peter Drucker said some 75 years ago, as you know I’m a Peter Drucker fan. He is probably the greatest guru in management and leadership ever. This is in response to employee surveys and other surveys of engagement in organizations, and the low scores that many receive. I think about the time I became a district manager, had about 12 branches under me and maybe 1000 to 1100 people. I knew it was a troubled district because I was brought in to replace somebody who’d been removed. The charter was “fix it”. So what do you do?

When you come into an organization the first thing you do is try to go out and meet people and listen. Get a temperature of the culture, the attitudes, the behaviors, how people feel – the morale. I found out quickly as I met with the branch managers – they’re sullen, heads down, beaten. Then in the branches, the same – secretaries, administrators, salespeople, technical support people etc. All sort of looking away as you walk through the premises. They all felt that they weren’t being respected, they weren’t being led, they weren’t being given the truth.

Many today, as I read The Wall Street Journal, blogs and other news stories about business and organizations, if you’re not making your numbers, we reduce staff. I see where many organizations are reducing middle management because we’re not making our numbers and they’re a little higher paid. So that helps the budget. But is that the answer? Maybe not.

Do we engage positive people? Sure we should. Do we have a new need a new leadership team? Maybe. Do we need new direction? Absolutely. And cultural awareness: Are we on top of what is the culture we want, what is the culture we have and what is our plan to change it. So I looked at the solutions in this particular branch, I think it may help some of you out there in the blogosphere, where you have the what I’ll call “watercooler-excessive” dissatisfied leaders or employees – give them the chance to change or if they won’t, you have to remove them. And that happened – we had to remove two of the 12 branch managers because they felt that the organization had been disloyal to them and they couldn’t change; they couldn’t accept new. But there are 10 others who all said, hey come on, what are we going to do here.

So new directions, not just a vision but a new direction of success: How we’re going to make our numbers? How are we going to exceed the different targets that we have? What are the people that we need to accomplish this? What training do we need? And most of all, what are the truths that we have to present to ourselves, buy into them and then share with all the constituents that we’re responsible for. What that meant is, we need to make our numbers. We can’t keep fighting against that. We have a responsibility. So “how are the numbers fair” is the usual response and you need to have your argument for that.

So you have new direction, and you need to have new perspectives. That means all of those, not just branch manager but on your team (staff, leaders) need to have a new perspective, whether it’s HR, administration, accounting, technology, customer support etc. And that new perspective is positive: We’re here to help; we’re here to make things better; we’re here to work on the responsibilities we have; and we’re here to make this a better place for the people – not employees, but for all the people.

Remember that they’re people, not just employees.