Oct 8, 2015

People Matter, Because We’re Not Robots (Yet)

written by Anya Amrith

Businesses and industry guru’s often use phrases like this:

‘People are the heart of business’
‘People make a business’ and
‘People are your greatest asset.’

These phrases, or some form of them, are used like water. Even I’ve heard them chucked about in team meetings in the past. The problem is, very rarely do businesses actually understand them. I’ve seen businesses, or the people representing a business, boast about how important their employees are whilst those wonderful members of staff are treated like *something brown* behind closed doors. The phrases above are just empty words.

There’s a human over there

Here’s the thing: we’re all human (as far we know). In businesses of all sizes – some large, some small, some International and even those businesses which seem to be stripped of all personality – there’s still a human sitting at every desk. And humans have personality (some more than others), they have lives and it’s impossible to leave every piece of baggage at the door.

I am not a robot pop art

If you take the time to understand an individual, and I mean really understand their inner workings, you’ll understand what makes them shine. Make 100+ people shine, and you have a glowing business. That means supporting people at their worst, working with them to grow. it’s an investment of time that will be priceless in the long-run.

Here’s the real life example thingy

I’m not just talking/typing for the sake of wasting energy. I’ve seen it happen, I was once one of those unhappy employees. Calling from one experience in particular, I remember how controlling the owner of an agency that shall remain nameless was. Controlling seems too lightweight, I’d describe the owner’s management style as narcissistic and demeaning.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, was miserable. The atmosphere was so on edge it could strangle you. There was even (and still is) a group on Facebook for ex-employees to share their horror stories. It was shameful to see how one person’s personality could filter down and demotivate people to the point that they were desperate to find another job. I lasted 2 weeks before deciding that life’s too short to wake up every morning and dread going into work, to see people so poorly treated because it was all about the number crunching.

I decided to use my experiences to start my own thing. It taught me a lot about how not to treat people.

Dealing with different people

I’m not perfect. There I said it, and it’s true. I have skills in some areas, but have had to work hard to improve others and some are still work in progress. My standout skill is working with people, and that’s come from my own personal life experience.

Having dealt with and worked with ‘difficult’ and different people, these are the tips I’ve picked up along the way:

Listening: Not just to what people are saying, but how they are saying it. For example, if you listen carefully to someone’s tone of voice you can usually pick up how they’re really feeling that day even if they say they’re OK.

Honesty: In our team, we have an ‘open talk’ policy. In our meetings, we’ve got to the stage where we’re quite comfortable to talk about the things bothering or affecting our work. Sometimes it’s hard to hear, especially if it’s unintentionally something you’ve done, but it keeps us moving forward.

Support: People can project their negative feelings if there’s nothing healthy to channel them into or anyone to talk to. Creating a mini-support network helps people to project less, and really open the lines of communication when there’s a problem. This doesn’t mean you have to ‘mother’ people, it’s more about making connections.

Have some fun: We work hard in our team, not because we’re told to but because we want to. We all put in the extra hours when a project calls for it. We’re also not afraid to have a giggle, put  up things in our space that help us to feel better and head out to grab some lunch together. We play music, share funny videos, talk about football and do all the things that make us human.

Motivate: What really motivates people? I think it’s down to an individual basis. Some people need more human interaction than others, some people are focusing on a particular aspect in their life and could use as much help getting there as possible (for example, driving lessons). Get to know the individual, and you get to know what motivates them.

Balance: Over the years, I’ve had to learn about boundaries. What they are, how I can set up my own and respect other people’s. I think boundaries are important in the workplace, especially setting up some healthy ones. Life’s a balance between being kind but also respecting your own boundaries so that people will follow pursuit.

Keep learning: We all make mistakes. Dealing with people and your relationships with them is hard. Sometimes, we’ll screw up. I’ve been there. But you learn from the experience, and find a way to move forward. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Dynamics: To have a successful team, you need to have a mix of people with different skill sets. This also means that you’re likely to have different personalities and views to how you yourself approach work. It’s important that a good team has balance, so the first step is to accept your shortfalls, acknowledge what they are and ensure that another person on the team is stronger in those areas.

Personal Development: To feel motivated, we all need to feel like we’re moving forward in life. It is extremely important that each and every person on a team has a personal development plan. It should take into account their own goals, achievements and progression. How can you help them to get there, or what can you do to facilitate that growth? Where someone is now isn’t their future.

pop art business woman

If you truly spend the time focusing on your ability to work with people, it won’t be wasted. It’s about the action, not the words. Some people you will never understand, and it won’t work out in a business sense. Many others respond well to a people-focused culture, and they’ll be motivated, happy and work their damn hardest because they love to. Nobody wants to lead an unhappy ship, much less be stuck in one.

Anya Lane
CEO, Aspurian Digital Ltd