In this world of continuous change and uncertainty especially from recent geopolitical events to unprecedented pandemic effects - I constantly wonder what is that one thing that still makes sense and always will from a leadership perspective – ‘putting people’s needs first’, as a leader its crucial to recognize the needs of people in your team, colleagues you interact with and how can you help them in their journey.
We all have basic needs - physiological needs, need to belong, need for respect and admiration and a leader who does not have empathy to recognize the needs of those around him is missing out and will constantly find yourself struggling to drive engagement in the team and build belonging and trust – irrespective if pandemic or not, remote work or working from office face to face.
While companies all over the world are increasingly realizing the power of creating people-centric organizations, did you ever wonder what does ‘Putting people first’ mean for your everyday leadership style. Is it just a jargon to build a stronger employer brand in a competitive race to attract and retain talent? How can one truly demonstrate and ‘put people and their needs first’ everyday in one’s working life. Will this mean in practice - as leaders we let go of our own needs, our own goals and priorities to accommodate others and people in my team.
These are some questions that I have been reflecting and before we try to answer them – ‘I would like you to think of the last time you were in a meeting or a phone call / interaction where you had physical reactions of anger/disappointment/frustration or just did not feel engaged to participate in the conversation’- what need of yours was not met then and what would you have liked to do differently in that situation.’
"While companies all over the world are increasingly realizing the power of creating people-centric organizations, did you ever wonder what does ‘putting people first’ mean for your everyday leadership style?"
The answer lies in ‘a humble leadership style’ where you focus on recognizing people’s needs, you see them for who they are and are committed to making them succeed. An example from a daily routine – when booking a 1o1 meeting time with one of your team members with this approach, you would have prepared for this meeting in advance, your focus is to use the time well to get to know what he/she is working on, what they need from you and where they aspire to grow. In this world of constant struggles, we may sometime lose this focus and these interactions can become ‘self-focused’ what I need from my team as a leader and losing the opportunity to validate that you are there for your people to succeed and are available to support them in making them succeed. This in turn will drive loyalty, engagement, reliability and most important trust with the one you work with and naturally lead to meeting your own needs and business goals as well.
I do acknowledge that for some this style of leadership comes naturally – they constantly chose to see both sides of the coin and focus putting their people first. While for some others, it is difficult to adapt and requires a constant effort.
On my desk at home, I have put a picture with Maslow’s needs hierarchy – even though Abraham Maslow published this in a paper in 1943 "A Theory of Human Motivation’ – I cannot help but wonder how relevant it is still to this day pandemic or not. Every time I get out of a phone call where I felt frustrated or when I felt the joy of being able to help a colleague - I remind myself of how sometimes it’s about keeping it simple and putting people’s needs first before I speak, judge, agree to disagree. Even in times when you end up in conflicts – it always helps to see ‘both sides of the coin’ and keep your mind open for diverse perspectives.