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A radical people policy… from 1937

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Writing these past few weeks about leaders who eventually come to the conclusion that business is mostly a people game has caused me to wonder why more start-up ventures don’t think about this from the outset. After working with a wide variety of entrepreneurs in the past twenty years, I can safely say that many of them would have avoided a variety of unnecessary problems by first getting the right kind of individual on their bus.   It is indeed a rare entrepreneur who thinks early enough about managing the people side of things. Many are so consumed by getting a product to market quickly or implementing a new strategic idea that they tend to put … Continue reading

Powerful stories about ‘putting people first’

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“We put our people first.” These days, such declarations have become somewhat banal, simply because they are so pervasive. Companies and managers talk of their desire to hire the best “talent”, and to develop their human resources. Or, they declare that the employees are the organizations’ most critical resource, that they will always come first, and so on.  Of course, many such statements are sincere; the problem is that they are so common nowadays that they have lost much of their meaning. One has the impression at times that public statements about the importance of people—in interviews, annual reports, or other public documents—may simply be corporations writing what they think their stakeholders … Continue reading

Jack Welch and “the people game”

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I referred last time to an assertion of one of my business school professors, back in 1983, that we tend to focus on “hard” stuff in our schools of management. Only later, when we have years of experience as managers in organizations, do many of us come to the realization that the “soft” stuff—human behavior and people management—matters more. As he said: “In time, you’ll discover that it’s mostly a people game.”  As I was writing that post, I reflected on the many examples I have seen of this phenomenon—stories and quotes from CEOs or other top managers who seem to focus increasingly on the human side of their organizations as they advance … Continue reading

It’s a people game

John's reflections, leadership 1 Comment

A few days before graduating from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1983, I was sitting in a quiet corner of the student café with my classmate Jim Collins, ruminating over issues of life and future prospects. In walked Don Palmer, who had been our professor one year earlier in “Introduction to Organizational Behavior”. Don stopped for just a brief moment to chat, but long enough to make two remarks that I still remember, both of which have turned out to be accurate.  The first thing Don told us, half jokingly, was that we were two of the people from our class that he could least see as long-term participants … Continue reading

A great leader writes a new story: example

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One of my favorite Brazilian proverbs says “When we dream alone, it is just a dream. But when we dream together, it is the beginning of a new reality.”  My view of organizational storytelling is similar. When a leader has a vision for the future, it is only a vision. When the leader’s vision becomes a co-created story with the followers, it is the beginning of a new future.  If there is such a thing as a heroic leader, for me it is not someone who performs feats of bravado herself but rather someone who inspires others to share the dream, the vision of what we can accomplish together. Only when a new story of … Continue reading

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