Smelling and it Stinks!

Organizational culture Organizational leadership Respect


Key Point: People can usually see right through our B.S., although it may take some time to pierce the flash or veneer. People in executive positions live in an aquarium. Observers watch and listen to us all day, evaluating our authenticity, integrity and generally seeing if our lips and feet really work together.

I heard a story the other day about a new CEO who gathered all the troops so he could “fire everyone up.” His comments were all about how everyone should get more excited about customers, working harder, and even having more fun. He ended the speech with the inspiring “fact” that there were too many under performers and he was going to fix that. The presentation was slightly slicker than the paraphrase above, but the real “message,” as “heard” by some employees, might as well have been: “Look, my bonus and total comp as CEO depends on you guys doing better. I know you need a job because it’s a ‘buyers’ market for talent. So watch out, because we can likely get more while paying less. And the ‘fun’ comment was a suggestion made by HR, and is a ‘throw away.’ I want to have fun here, but frankly I really don’t care if you do. Now go out there and win one for the big guy, ME! And remember while you’re lucky to have a job, be sure to fill out that engagement survey we sent you correctly.” 

The CEO’s comments have some merit of course, but they do not convey a real “People First” strategy. People First is not mush headed employee pandering or some deviant form of socialism. It is a way of recognizing that the first and foremost commitment of leadership is fully engaging the heads, hearts and minds of the entire team in a way that will ultimately lead to the best business results. The answer to, “what’s in it for me?” goes beyond survival and lucky to be employed.

It is time for EVERY organization (with the premise that they have some inherent value in the marketplace) to put People First! The debate about who is more important between people, customers or shareholders should be over and done. Institutions need to have a predetermined responsibility to be a vessel for transporting employees towards living better and richer lives (and of course achieve bottom line results). Yes, organizations need a commercially viable offering as a foundation for sustainability… However, the “ticket” to lead in any institution must be the ability to deliver customer and shareholder happiness through the constructive contribution of people; not on their backs.  By putting people first, customers and shareholders will ultimately win too. And you can’t fake this belief. People watch carefully and eventually assemble the moments of truth into the story that lets them know what to really believe. If we’re out of step from what we declare, then the smell will sit on top of us like a stinky, puke green cloud of phoniness. I promise employees, customers and shareholders will all be poorer for it.

Character Moves:

  1. Test your real beliefs. Be sure if you drive with a People First philosophy, that the moments of truth in front of you will reinforce, rather than contradict that proclamation. We’re not perfect and will likely make mistakes in this context, but people will forgive and work with us if they trust our intentions.

Smelling good in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Sometimes as Millennials, we can feel pretty out of the loop when it comes to office agenda and politics. We don’t need to know everything that happens behind closed doors in executive meetings, but the more truth and transparency offered, the better we can do our jobs too. A People First plan would absolutely be ideal, and even if the truth stinks, we’ll achieve better results than if operating in an uncertain haze.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis