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Cultivating a People First Attitude By W. Rusty Faulks

In Business and Life, it’s people first every time!

When it comes to organizational effectiveness, a business that works must have a people-first attitude. My question is how do we value people and, by doing so, build a strong business that attracts and retains the right people? How do we create a workplace where people enjoy coming to every day and aren’t looking at other job opportunities? How can we treat people with kindness, dignity, and respect; to show love even when giving a rebuke or ending employment? Bottom-line: how do we put the “human” back into human resources?


Think of the infrastructure of your business like a stool with four legs: finance, operations, technology, and people. The leg with the greatest variability, most prone to being weakened from the inside out, and at the greatest risk of hampering or collapsing the stool is your people. Finance, operations, and technology all have their challenges, but it is the people who make the judgments and decisions that determine the finances, it is people who perform or design the operational processes, and it is people who design and program the technology.


Processes and systems are put in place to simplify, control and guide business outcomes, but when it comes to people, managers too often resort to ineffective practices, such as micromanagement, to control individual behavior to achieve organizational results. Such practices rarely work and do not attract and retain the best employees. Human variables are complex and exceed what a process, system, or leader can control.

Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall in their recent book, “Nine Lies About Work” say it well, “…the true power of human nature is that each human’s nature is unique, and …expressing this through our work is an act, ultimately, of love.” They said that they wrote the book “…for any leader frustrated by the attempts of his or her organization to exert control and impose uniformity. Buckingham and Goodall wrote the book for “a leader who embraces a world in which the weird uniqueness of each individual is seen not as a flaw to be ground down but as a mess worth engaging with, the raw material for all healthy, ethical, thriving organizations….”


Take care of your people and you will have the greatest opportunity to impact the effectiveness of the organization. It reminds me of the P-PC principle from Stephen Covey‘s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” based on the story of the goose and the golden egg. The golden egg = production (“P”) – the outcome the business owner desires; the goose represents production capability (“PC”) – how the work gets done, it’s the people! When a leader takes care of the goose then golden eggs will continue to be produced.

The issues are complex but consider taking an intentional step this year that values your people in a new way, it could be as simple as providing a word of appreciation or developing your managers to value the people.


As you take steps to focus on your people you will strengthen your business, attract and retain the best employees, and nurture the desired culture. What is one thing you can do this next year that will positively impact your work culture and business outcomes?


Rusty Faulks is Founding Principal of Windwood Partners, an HR Consultancy based in Nashville. Windwood Partners is all about people. They provide workforce solutions that make business sense for small to mid-sized businesses and non-profit organizations.


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