Start the Revolution

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Tom Peters, the iconic management guru, says, “Any/all businesses are people serving people.” He then goes on to say that leaders are “people serving people serving people.”

This would mean that the CEO of a company is a person serving people serving people serving people. However, most companies are built more like this, a CEO serving shareholders serving, well, themselves; leaders serving the company to make the numbers look good, and employees trying to serve customers but only halfheartedly because the models/leaders/managers they have are serving multiple interests. (And we wonder why the service we get as customers pretty much sucks.)

So how do we make changes? How can we start a revolution that puts people instead of numbers or shareholder value at the center?

Well, if we want better workplaces and better customer experiences, a revolution can and should happen but not in the way we think when we think of revolutions. It needs to start with one manager at a time making a decision to engage more with their teams in conversations where they ask for opinions and ideas and draw out the best their team members have to offer. Managers everywhere have the ability to dramatically influence the lives of the people in their charge for better or worse. When you think of that it could mean hundreds of people over the course of a career. That’s enough people to move the dial significantly and drive change in your workplace.

By this simple act of connecting with your team members and valuing their contributions, they will perform better, they will have better relationships in and out of work, and customers will interact with happier people who want to serve them. Put simply, you will have a happier, more engaged workforce who make your customers happier and more loyal. What could be better than that?

Then, with happier, more loyal customers, you will see your numbers reflecting this and corporate will see it too. People will start to wonder what’s going on at your location. Other managers will start wanting to make similar changes because they see your success. They’ll start asking you what you’re doing. One by one until … revolution. Okay, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself but perhaps there is some truth in the old adage that a big wind begins with the flapping wings of a butterfly on the other side of the world.

Managers can influence a lot and there is and should be nobility in that influence. This quote from Robert Altman upon receiving an Oscar sums it up, “The role of the Director is to create a space where the actors and actresses can become more than they’ve ever been before, more than they’ve dreamed of being.”

You can start today. Walk out and start talking to your team members, no, not your normal inner circle, I am talking about those people you rarely talk to. I am talking about those line-level, front-line employees who are in the trenches. Go out there and learn from them. Get their input on that new process you’re contemplating. Get them to tell you how they see it impacting customers. Find out how it will impact them and their jobs. Ask them if they have ideas for improving it or streamlining it. Ask and listen. Connect. Then … go out and do it again tomorrow. Keep it up until it becomes a regular part of your day.

And don’t stop there, bring what you learn into your management meetings. Bring the voice of those employees out on the fringe into the center of the room. In fact, invite some of them into the room. Get them to give their point of view. Build their leadership. Help them become, as Altman put it, “more than they’ve ever been before.”

Yes, a people-centered, workplace revolution. It doesn’t start with a mob, it starts with one manager at a time deciding to build a team of leaders who can think, do, and bring inestimable value. People serving people serving people, the essence of business. Start the movement in your workplace.

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