Tin Man: Have A Heart!
It’s all about the bottom line, right? Or at least that’s what we have always been told. But perhaps therein lies the real problem? What really is the bottom line? Profits, productivity, efficient processes and safe practices generally top the priority list for most companies. But there’s something very important missing from the list. Look at it again. Figured it out yet? The answer is people. A company is no better than the people it employs. The best organizations tend to be staffed by the best people. They also tend to be led by the best people. Either way the commonality is people. People are important. People are critical. People are valuable. But far too often, people are overlooked, neglected and taken for granted by those who fall into the category of “misfit managers.”
Our friend the Tin Man had a problem. On the outside everything seemed fully functional. But on the inside there was a tremendous lack, a distinction of dire consequences. The Tin Man’s weakness was his absence of a heart. Now, you and I know that this was really just a misperception on his part. The truth was that he had incredible heart. Throughout the movie he evidenced his concern and compassion for everyone he met. Unfortunately, it is very easy for the cold, indifferent realities of the business world to leave management in a somewhat similar plight. Granted, employees generally see only their side of the situation but who among us hasn’t wrestled with leadership that at times seemed cold, indifferent, distant, apathetic, and downright heartless?
Describing the condition is not the problem. That’s the easy part. Most “misfit managers” have a hard time distinguishing between people and machines. In their minds the person is often just another tool, one that can be easily replaced if necessary. You can’t “fake” having a heart. But you can change. All it takes is the willingness to start doing things differently. At any rate, let’s take a look at 3 elements of a healthy heart as it relates to “people” management in the workplace:
- Simple consideration. This will sound cliché but that doesn’t mean it is any less true. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Look at them when they are talking to you. Whatever you were looking at on the computer screen will still be there when they get done. Listen to people when they are talking to you. That’s doesn’t mean you are tuning them out while you think about your response. Actually shut down your wandering mind and focus on their words. I know those two things sound elementary but they are foundational. Most people can tell when we are feigning interest in them. Focus on them like they are all that matters. In the end all most people want is to know that their opinion counts. The problem is that misfit managers may say employees matter but their constant interruptions, short answers, and penchant for forgetting what was said in a previous conversation communicate a very different message.
- Genuine concern. Consideration means I am thinking about your opinion. Concern differs from consideration in that I am also interested in the feelings of the person who is giving “said” opinion. The outcome of such concern is loyalty. I know this may surprise some of us but no amount of money can secure employee loyalty. It may serve as a temporary incentive but long-term, unshakable loyalty is grown in the fertile soil of genuine concern. Learn people’s names. Get to know them. Treat them and talk to them not as subordinates but as co-workers. Better yet, treat them as a friend. Solicit their opinions. Listen to their concerns. Value their contributions. Employees want to be seen as people. They want to be treated like people. They want to know that the company values them not only for what they do but also, and perhaps more importantly, for who they are.
- True compassion. Most people don’t want our sympathy. They don’t want us “feeling sorry” for them. What they want is empathy. And although the two words sound very similar, the practical application could not be more different. True compassion always involves action. It’s the manager who goes out of his way to help, and at times even serve, those under his supervision. It means understanding that delegation is not a tool to get out of work while others labor at your expense. At times, it means being there for your fellow employee during times of personal need. The compassionate manager is the first to give a donation, the first to initiate the celebration, and the first to recognize achievement. Yes, it means you will have to get involved. Yes, it means you might have to eat in the cafeteria. Yes, it means you will actually have to get to know people. But the successful leader knows you can’t lead people effectively from a distance.
People are important. Without people we might as well turn off the power, lock the doors, and head home. People are the ones who purchase our products. People are the ones who make our products. When we fail to focus on people we lose balance. And when you lose your balance you eventually fall. The Tin Man longed to have a heart. And far too many employees are desperately wishing their managers would get one themselves. People are not machines. People are not tools. People are not simply a means to an end. The bottom line is not profit, productivity, better processes or safer practices. The bottom line is people. And no organization will ever be better than the people who work for it. So, have a heart and start to value your people. Show them some simple consideration, genuine concern, and true compassion. No, they might never grow to love you in return. But you’ll never regret making people your priority.
If you liked this blog, you might want to check out these as well: