Earlier this week, I was at CUNA’s ACUC in San Diego, where I had the privilege of being a panelist in a session on how doing good motivates the millenial generation, as well as participating in a mentor session for a group from The Cooperative Trust. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate being able to chat with folks about the stuff I’m passionate about, but this actually marks the second conference I’ve spoken at in the last few months where I had someone approach me at some point after a session and tell me, in one way or another, that they didn’t buy what I was saying.
I’ll recount for you how one of the conversations went. This random conference attendee had been in a session where I was talking about the importance of healthy organizational culture and how I felt like it was potentially a huge competitive advantage. Most of the session, this attendee sat with his arms folded, and from time to time he’d visibly shake his head back and forth during parts that I guess he found particularly disagreeable. Afterward, he approached me and said the following:
Random Conference Attendee: “Thanks for the session you just did. I can tell you’re passionate about the people side of business.”
Me: “Thanks for coming, and yeah, I love the human side of business.”
Random Conference Attendee: “The thing is, I think you’re wrong about something.”
Me: “I’m sure I am, but which thing are you referring to?”
Random Conference Attendee: “The part where you go on and on about how it’s people that drive business outcomes more than anything else.”
Me: “Well, yes, I believe that. Don’t you?”
Random Conference Attendee: “Not really. I actually don’t think that’s true at all. My organization isn’t people-driven, it’s metrics-driven.”
Me: “Ah. Well tell me, who do you think drives those metrics?”
(Silence. Fake crickets chirping.)
Even people who are “metrics-driven” would have to admit that without people to drive those metrics, their business would be nowhere. And it’s commonly accepted within the larger business world that engaged employees working within healthy organizations generally do better work than disengaged employees in toxic workplaces. It just makes sense.
The weird part is that even though most people understand this, and nod in agreement when someone talks about it, there are so many businesses out there that still, well, suck at the human side of business and frankly don’t even seem to give it much of a second thought. Even within the credit union space–which is home for me–it’s not uncommon to find boards of directors and executives who think of all this employee enagement and culture talk is fluffy nonsensical crap.
And then they wonder why they have turnover and morale problems.
And they wonder why their business isn’t doing as well as it could be.
And then they rationalize these things away and blame them on any number of things.
“@tom_peters If we all nod when you say people are the most important thing, why do so many orgs still suck at the people part of biz? #ACUC”
His response is the same as mine: “It beats the hell out of me.”