The Simple Things

IWL Intern, Maggie Anderson

Starting off college, people would constantly ask me, “What’s your major?” I would say marketing, not knowing much about what that meant. But now as a junior at Butler University, I’m truly getting a feel for the business world. My first experience was in my first year Freshman Business Experience course (FBE).

Everyone loved FBE because every day we would come in a just simply talk about business. We had a textbook that we never opened and for some it was an easy A. But for those of us who listened, it actually taught an important lesson. So much of what we were learning seemed self-explanatory at the time. You mean a good leader values their employees? A team should be motivated and trust each other? Of course, we have all heard that before.

Looking back now on the things we discussed, the point of those discussions are so much clearer. Leadership and cooperation in teams are easier said than done. The truth of the matter is, many business leaders just aren’t listening.

Nilofer Merchant wrote People are Not Cogs in the Harvard Business Review about how important the “peopley” side of business is. She is astounded that companies think that valuing employees is “soft” and comes secondary to other business functions. Too many business professionals think of things like creating a comfortable atmosphere, trust, motivation, creativity, and personal connections as “the frosting on the cupcake.” But we can’t put off the “peopley” stuff until later. Those are the things that make a business successful. People are looking at this backward. We should build individuals and teams now and focus on the outcome later. Then performance and outcomes will thrive as a result. Studies show the bottom line effect of high engagement, collaborative leadership, and open communication and we have seen the results firsthand.

Fortune Magazine’s 100 best companies to work for include Dreamworks, Zappos, and Google. Dreamworks values the individual by supporting outside projects, offering free professional development classes, and encouraging new ideas from all levels. Zappos is known for its weirdly fun office atmosphere. And Google offers all kinds of perks like free food, a climbing wall, and free laundry – a college student’s dream. Why not make work fun? Doesn’t it make sense that the more joy we get our of our work, the more motivated we are to come in every day and give it our best?

These are extremely successful companies proving the value in putting time and money toward supporting employees. People are not dispensable. “A company is only as good as its employees;” companies need to give their people the opportunity to give all they can. So we need to go back and think about the basics. It’s the simple things that are often the hardest to put in practice. The simple things seem self-explanatory or unimportant. But thinking back on my FBE class I see how important those basics are. We don’t need to make a distinction between performance and people. As Merchant says, they are one and the same.

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