Staff are the most important investors in any company
In Tolkien’s Silmarillion, the prelude to Lord of the Rings, Manwe is the King of the Valar, however it is Melkor (Sauron’s mentor) who is the most powerful among the 8 Gods. Manwe, despite being the weaker in powers, wins the wars they fight due to having the most important power of all, influence over the other Valar. The same can be said about leadership were the most important attribute of a great leader is not being the most powerful or having the most skills, it is rather having the most influence. This prioritizing people is one of the most important attributes of a great leader.
Influence over people is the most important power of any leader.
In quadrant II thinking we learned that relationship building is one of the most significant “important” but “not urgent” areas in which you should be spending your time as a leader. “Putting people first” is an easy way to remind yourself of this. However it is important to understand what this statement implies to good leadership. “Putting people first” is dealing with people related issues first in front of administrative and organizational ones. It does not necessarily imply that the wants of people come before day to day work needs, which is a point we covered in needs over wants.
Putting people first is dealing with people related issues first.
So how do you ensure you are a leader that prioritizes people by putting them first? Firstly it is important to have valuing staff as investors as part of your company mission as this creates a culture of putting people first and hence providing them with the emotional “maintenance” needed. The second is to create a cultural of professional development, one where staff improving is in the framework of the company, as this allows you to see each challenge or problem as a teaching opportunity and hence prioritize people. It is especially important to note each time you teach someone a new skill, you gain more influence over them that can be channeled to achieving more. Finally and most importantly you need to make time for people as the core point of prioritizing people is giving them time. No matter how busy you are, the people you lead still need some of your time.
The most important part of prioritizing people is giving your time.
So the key point to prioritizing people is learning how to manage the time you give to your team. It is essential that your team know that if they need you for something urgent and important, your door is always open. However likewise you should be developing staff to be autonomous and part of that is teaching them to be productive in how they use their own time and take up yours. Training people to make the right judgement calls of when your assistance is needed and using the right communication channels for situations is essential but always some channel must be open as that is key to putting people first. Likewise you yourself must plan out putting people first into your timetable as the most important part of prioritizing people is not reacting to issues after they happen, but judging when you need to provide support and guidance to your team before issues happen. In general if you gut indicate you need to influence a person plan it out to happen at the first opportunity, it will be time well spent in the long tun.
You should always be accessible but your should train your team to use this access responsibly.
Looking above you can see a simple guideline for how to prioritize your time you give to your staff. First and foremost you must have your set meetings for both tasks and feedback and development. The two should be separate meetings with your tasks and goal setting meetings normally being weekly or bi-weekly and your feedback ones on performance being monthly or every trimester. What is important with this is to have a clear framework from offset and to stick to it, don’t let being “busy” stop these meetings. The second part is when you reflect on your day, you must reflect on how your team has done and is doing. If something seems a miss then you should schedule in an additional meeting asap. Finally the last is to be available no matter what. You should work towards making your staff autonomous but the ultimate support you can give them is them knowing that if they face an emergency, be it work or personal, you will drop everything and stand by them and give them support needed. Your staff must use this appropriately but they must know it exists as it is core to trust and hence core to your influence over them. So from now on prioritize people as by doing so you will achieve more.
When a company is under emotional mismanagement, collaborations fail, commitment erodes, productivity wanes and innovation languishes. The key to stopping emotional mismanagement is prioritizing people.