The most important “P”

Do you remember when you were taught the four “P”‘s of product, place, price and promotion? They were at the heart of successful business marketing plans. Today, there is a “P” that trumps that them all—people.

If you read this blog regularly, you are aware that we interview one high profile CEO each month to learn how their leadership has transformed their organization into a high performance enterprise. It has been a wonderful study of similarities and diversities, as there are consistent themes, yet individual styles. Without a doubt, one of the most common principles is that for these leaders, people are the key to their success.

Most companies will say that their most important asset is their employees. Yet, when asked how they demonstrate that, they may cite birthday celebrations or five year anniversary pins. The companies in which people really are the most important asset find ways to make their employees a part of the strategy for success and feel valued for what they do.

I am reminded of how important this is as I write this from a hospital room. Who likes to be in the hospital? Never fun. My daughter is here for pneumonia and is mending well, going home soon. Tonight is my turn to stay all night. I just spent 15 minutes (at 3:30am) talking to Chris, the lab tech who was concerned about my daughters’ IV, which was consistently malfunctioning–complaining with its insistent, repetitive and irritating beep, going off in the middle of the night. His concern for her and for providing the best medical care, answering all of my questions, and doing what ever needed to be done was genuine and heartwarming. Two years ago I was a patient in another hospital with a five day stay. It was a teaching hospital and that may account for the lack of patient centric care that I experienced, but then, what were they teaching? Apparently, their definition of care was about process and paperwork more than “care” of the patient.

It would be easy to say people should provide their best talent in exchange for a paycheck, and the company shouldn’t have to “babysit” them to get them to be productive and deliver good service. Unfortunately, as humans, how we feel impacts what we do. If we don’t feel important, we don’t do important things, just what we must to complete the task. No one wins in that scenario–not the company or the employee.

Engaging great people in a meaningful way is the number one thing any company can do to achieve success. The things is, you can’t say you do without truly incorporating it into the fiber of the company culture and strategic plan. Companies who thrive based on their people and the quality of their contributions, like Southwest Airlines and Apple, are able to do so because their business model is based on having a solid strategy and then hiring the right people with the right skills who fit with a purposeful culture to make wonderful things happen.

So what are the signs the company REALLY values people?

  • From the outside looking in, you can easily describe the culture
  • People are motivated and work with a sense of purpose
  • Employees understand the company vision and their role in achieving it
  • There are specific and unique processes for hiring people that determines if they are a good fit with the culture, in additional to being able to provide the necessary skills
  • The desired culture is integrated into organizational processes like on-boarding of employees, training, reward, recognition and review programs, etc.

Companies who take the time to get the people part right are more likely to be high performance companies. Talented and motivated people can overcome a multitude of challenges faster, better, more easily than other companies, as a general rule. It is worth it to consider the importance of culture as you create your plan for 2011.

Now the beeping has finally stopped, and it is time for a few more minutes of rest……

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