Please Don’t Call Me an Asset

If you call “your people” assets or human resources, you may want to rethink your approach.

True leaders see people, not replaceable widgets.  Leaders understand the full range of capabilities, values, desires and concerns of the people on their team.  Conversely, the commodification of people as Assets, Resources, or Employees dehumanizes them, creates assembly line mentalities, and dissuades people from giving their all to the work they are doing.

If you want enthusiastic, committed support, cooperation, collaboration and an ownership mentality, you have to see and treat individuals, not widgets.

Here are some ways that can show up:

  • Stop the cookie cutter job design. You meet the needs of the individual, taking their needs and the organizations goals to heart.  Often, it’s caring about how the job fits into the person’s life, and adjusting the framework of the job to support the overall life that creates long term loyalty and minimizes undesired attrition.
  • You attempt to create jobs that use the whole person. Vary and combine jobs to tax and utilize the brain’s cross training skills and eliminate boredom.  Overspecialization minimizes creativity and effectiveness.
  • You celebrate the individual. See each person’s gifts, contributions and unique qualities in a way that makes them feel seen for who they are, not as a widget.  Play to their strengths, and everyone wins.
  • You invite the person to express their authentic self. Whether by default or intention, see where you are trying to have people fit a mold that makes the dominant group (the group in charge) feel more comfortable, and where you are valuing their individuality, their true selves.
  • You love. When we see all people as their highest and best selves, as their full potential realized, they live up to the expectation. We move from a perspective of judgement and criticism, to one of wholeness, contribution and possibility.  We highly recommend Ben Zander’s book The Art of Possibility, especially his chapter on “Giving an A“.

Cube living can already feel rather closed- like a person is not living fully.   As a leader and a manager, sending the message- you matter, I see you, you exist– can make all the difference in creating a better life for everyone you have the privilege to lead and guide.

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