What to Know About People

Mar 07, 2023

When most people in business and education see the title, “What to Know About People,” they immediately think about behavior profiles. Behavior Profiles have been the rage in organizational life for over 40 years. You’ve probably completed one or more. Myers-Briggs, DISC, and Enneagram are some of the most popular, but there are dozens in use today. This blog, though, is NOT about behavior profiles.  Behavior profiles explore everyone’s uniqueness.  This blog focuses on the 4 things that all of us have in common. Understand and embrace these commonalities, and you can quickly help people grow and thrive. Plus, if you do use behavior profiles in your organization, they will be more effective when applied with this basic knowledge about all human beings.   

  1. Most people are Adapters. They adapt to the environment in which they find themselves. When I began designing team cultures 30 years ago, I found that most people quickly adapted to the new work environment. When a company is bought by a competitor, few people leave on their own because they can’t adapt. Even if the culture is different in the new company, most people adapt and stay.

Some people think of adaptability as a negative trait. Not so. In fact, it is our greatest strength. Thousands and thousands of years ago when there were different types of humanoids on the earth, adaptability is what helped homo sapiens (us) survive when the other early versions of humans died out. (I think that qualifies as a pretty important trait.) Plus, adaptability is a huge strength if you, the leader, know how to help people grow.

  1. We are Spiritual Beings. Before you shout hallelujah or accuse me of injecting religion into the workplace, let me explain the meaning of spiritual. As human beings we are all looking for identity, purpose, and direction. Early in our lives, as our consciousness develops, we begin asking 3 questions: Who am I? Why am I here? How will I live my life? These are the spiritual questions of life. We all ask these questions, whether we are religious or not. And we keep asking these same questions the rest of our life. The answers will change in the different stages of life, but the questions remain the same.

Work is an essential part of that search for meaning. So, in this sense, work is a spiritual endeavor. When work connects with our identity, purpose, and direction we come alive. We become more engaged in what we do every day. Work becomes infused with greater meaning and purpose. It ceases to be a collection of tasks we do every day and goals we achieve. Instead, it becomes a part of who we are. It gives meaning, purpose, and direction to our lives.

  1. We are Relational Beings. As human beings we are genetically wired to be in relationship. From the times we were being chased by lions and tigers on the savannas thousands of years ago to the city streets of today, relationships have played a central role in our growth. Of all the relationships we have, 3 relationships are central to every human’s life: relationship with self, family, and work. Relationship with self is about identity and the degree to which we love and embrace ourselves. Pretty important.  Family is where identity is formed, values are shaped, and world view is created.  Work is the other big relationship. Work is where most of us spend most of our time. When work is meaningful and strong relationships are built with co-workers and clients, work strengthens the other two important relationships – self and family.     
  2. We are Aspirational Beings. Growth is an essential part of being human. It is genetically wired into our cells, and as our consciousness develops it quickly becomes a part of what motivates use. Toddlers are inspired when they can walk, children when they can read and do math, youth when they begin to understand relationships. In the workplace people become fully engaged you help them grow in their craft and career.

If these 4 things are accurate about humans, investing in your people’s role growth is not a “feel good” thing to do. It is not “being nice” to those on your team.

If you want high performance, investing in people's role growth is an essential  business decision.

Stop thinking about work as a collection of tasks and goals that people do and then go home, only to come back and do the same tasks and achieve the same goals tomorrow. It is so much bigger than the “things” we do every day. Work is about life. Connect work to the spiritual, relational, and aspirational elements of everyone on your team, and you will create an engaged and energized workforce that helps you drive growth.




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