HUMAN BEINGS OR HUMAN RESOURCES?
We are living in an age where self-interest reigns supreme. We are going through life as being on a never ending conquest, driven by entitlement and a perpetual sense of discontent. The next person is viewed as a mere resource to advance our selfish ambitions and we totally lost sight of the fact that he / she is in fact a human being. The usefulness of people are viewed through the myopic lens of what I can get out of them and to what extent they can validate my sense of self-importance.
If you and me would like to leave an enduring legacy, we will have to see the value in other people. Some of the most enriching moments in my life happened when I meaningfully connected with people in pursuit of a common objective. By this I mean people from all walks of society because over the passage of time, I have learned not to be intimidated in a palace neither do I feel uncomfortable in a shack, can hold my own in the company of the learned but does not underestimate the elementary wisdom of the less educated. There is simply no substitute for connecting with real people in real time. Human resource development has evolved as an area of specialty over quite a few decades now. We have at our disposal some of the most advanced theories and highly sophisticated tools in this regard. As a leader, you will be well advised to spend less time trying to design your next best program for ‘’ human resource development ‘’ and rather invest a few more hours genuinely and sincerely engaging with someone, giving them an opportunity to experience something new with you. You will be surprised what mutual learning can come out of such an encounter.
“ We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean… and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect. “ Michelle Obama
SEEING THE VALUE IN OTHERS
As a leader, one of your major responsibilities is to create an enabling environment where your colleagues will function as human beings and not merely as human resources. Each one should appreciate his / her unique role in contributing towards the overall strategic objectives of the organization. In the ultimate analysis, our common humanity should never be sacrificed for material or other considerations.
A very profound example that illustrates the above principle is found in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 : 25 – 37. What is instructive about this parable, is that the Good Samaritan recognized the dignity in the man who was attacked by robbers and almost at a point of death. He did not regard it as an inconvenience to get involved to help his fellow man, he disregarded the man’s racial background and generously made his own resources available. At the end of the parable Jesus commanded us “ Go and do likewise.”
May we once more gain a fresh understanding and appreciation of the dignity of our fellowmen.
MANAGING THE NECESSARY TENSION
There is a necessary and healthy tension in the workplace between getting things done and caring about people. Accountability and compassion are two sides of the same coin. If we veer too much in the area of compassion without holding those in our sphere of influence accountable, we will operate in the realm of sentimentalism. This will not be helpful to the individual concerned and it might undermine organizational discipline. I would like to just highlight a few aspects to maintain this healthy tension:
1. The intoxication of Cloud 9
We can sometimes get so absorbed in our achievement bubble and the glare of the spotlight, that we totally forget about the contributions of others in our team. We might even take undue credit for work accomplished with scant regard for the collective effort of others. Be consciously aware of the contributions of the members of your team and make a special effort to publicly celebrate their contribution to the overall success of the organization.
2. Not suffering fools
There are leaders who always have an answer for everything and never allow space and opportunity for others to express their views. People even feel intimidated to express a view because it might not match the intelligence of the leader. As a leader, its OK to be quiet at times and deliberately stir the pot to encourage the expression of divergent views. Credible leaders are those that learned the art of listening with intent. Mike Myatt puts it so aptly “Want to become a better leader? Stop talking and start listening. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume or rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know there are far more gained by surrendering the floor than by dominating it.”
Someone once said that arrogance is the camouflage of insecurity. Arrogant people are always right and think they are better than other people. This is used as a very subtle defense mechanism to prevent others from actually seeing the real you and an inherent fear that your limitations might be exposed. Never confuse confidence with arrogance. Remain humble.
4. Remote controllers
These are leaders who have informers that keeps them in the loop about what people are thinking of them. They then dispense undue patronage through this network. Their favorite communication is through emails that are very directive and with subtle coercion; never forgetting to remind you who is the boss. Learn the art of constructive face-to-face conversation that is not coercive, manipulative or sarcastic.
I am sure as we reflect on our own lives, we each will have a dossier to share about our own life experiences where we were abused, taken advantage of and unknowingly coopted to advance the selfish agenda of somebody else. This gives us ample reason to be skeptical, suspicious and even scared to easily trust the motives and intentions of others. Life is about taking risks – well calculated risks. As human beings, we all have the potential to disappoint each other and not live up to expectations. The best way to mitigate this risk, is to apply at all times the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.