“People are our greatest asset” is one of the most hack- neyed phrases expressed by
heads of businesses. Every leader says it
at least once.
The real world tells a different story.
Employers often treat staff as chattel,
especially in the financial services industry. Then they complain that they cannot
find or keep good people. The four-year
retention rate at traditional brokerage
and insurance companies remains in
the single digits, and many large public
companies enact regular layoffs based
on hitting earnings targets for the year.
Instead of treating people as an
investment on which to get a return,
these companies see them as a cost to
be managed. Simon Sinek says you can
tell a lot about how leaders value their
people based on how they describe their
order of priorities. “Leaders have ‘tells’
as human beings. They act in order of
personal preference.” Sinek says. “If it
comes out as ‘growth, market share,
profit, shareholder return, then people,’
you can assume that employees are not
first on their list of priorities.”
Sinek is a prominent speaker and best-
selling author who effectively challenges
the traditional mindset in American com-
panies. When I interviewed Mr. Sinek at
the 2019 BNY Mellon’s Pershing INSITE
conference, he said that too many busi-
ness leaders do not show employees the
loyalty or consideration they deserve.
He then asked, “Why are they surprised
when those same employees do not give
them loyalty back?
“Owners and executives treat human
beings as an item on a spreadsheet,” he
added. “That’s not to say profits should
not be a priority in business, but not
90/10 — maybe more like 51/49.” He
noted that companies who take care of
people in hard times have greater long-
term performance. Sinek went on to say
that the best-performing companies have
employees who wake up inspired, feel
safe at work and return home fulfilled.
Those of us who have worked in other
environments grasp this concept. When
you reflect on your own management
style, think about times when you experienced mismanagement. What did this
feel like? What would you have wanted
that manager to change? How many
of those same ineffective techniques,
phrases or behaviors show up in your
own approach to leading others?
MOTIVATION VS. ENVIRONMENT
I have long believed that you cannot
motivate people, you can only demoti-vate them. Your job as a leader is to create an environment in which motivated
people will flourish. For the most part,
this means eliminating distractions from
their work. These range from frustrating
technology and dark offices to negative
or harassing behavior. In addition, the
environment has to provide what they
need to focus on their jobs.
The psychologist Frederick Herzberg
published a study in the late 1950s on
Motivation-Hygiene Theory (or Two-Factor Theory) that helps frame choices
for top management. Herzberg said that
examples of motivators include challenging work, appropriate recognition,
increasing responsibility and personal
growth. “Hygiene factors”— those elements that do not lead to higher motivation but can distract from employee
satisfaction — include company policies, relationships, work conditions, fair
remuneration and job security.
Think about how you or your leaders
When People Come Last
Through their actions, leaders reveal their true priorities.
FORMULAS FOR SUCCESS
By Mark Tibergien
treat staff as chattel,
especially in the
industry. Then they
complain that they
cannot find or keep
good people. The four-year retention rate at
companies remains in
the single digits….