Creating Value Through People


Which of the following does your firm report on, monitor, and react to most frequently? Which consumes the most management time?

  • Client satisfaction
  • The strength of key client
  • Employee motivation and
  • Levels of collaboration among
  • Financial

If you are like the overwhelming majority of businesses you will focus primarily on financial results. Consequently, you are making less money than you could!

Why? Because managing a business by looking at financial results is like trying to win a game by keeping your eye firmly fixed on the scoreboard. Financial results are just that: results. They are the outcome of excellence (or the lack of  it) in the key process that produces the value that your customers and clients pay for. What you must manage are the things that produce value: energize employees who deliver outstanding quality and service to the marketplace. Does this mean that you don’t monitor financials in great detail? Of course not. Financial discipline is the bedrock of business success, but it’s not all of it, and maybe not even the greater part of it. The real key is the ability to get your people sufficiently focused so that they eagerly and willingly strive for high standards.


The strategic plans of many direct competitors, remarkably, are almost always identical. Everyone figures out correctly which client sectors are growing, which services are in rising demand, and which dimensions of competition, such as client service or innovation, clients are looking for. The strategy documents are the same because everyone is smart! Everyone knows what needs to be done.

If this is so, then what is competition really about? It is about who can best complete the work that needs to get done.  And this in turn is determined by the following set of closely related concepts:

Where these exist the discipline can be found to engage in diligent execution and thereby outperform the competition. The role of the manager is to be a net creator of enthusiasm, excitement, passion, and ambition. Alas, all too often managers are destroyers of excitement. If all they ever talk about is finances (How are your billings? What is happening to receivables?), it can deaden the spirit. That does not mean they do not need to talk about these things – they do. But they shouldn’t talk only about these things. It is the manager’s job to inspire, cajole, support, critique, praise, encourage, confront, and comfort, as individual people (and groups of people) struggle to live their work lives according to high standards.

All strategies, at some time or the other, involve a tradeoff between short-term cash and executing the strategy.  If you are going to get the benefits of a strategy, you need to be willing to make hard choices and act as if you truly believe it. You must be willing to practice what you preach, both when it is convenient and, most importantly, when it is not.

Many people do not believe that their leaders truly want them to act strategically. Whenever a choice needs to be made between strategy and short-term cash – and it always does – most people feel under significant, if not irresistible, pressure from management to go for the cash. Usually the message from the firm’s leadership is clear: strategy can wait for tomorrow (if we can get paid for competence, why strive for excellence?). Rather then leaders being a source of encouragement to execute the strategy, they are all too often the biggest obstacles to the implementation of strategy.

If you want to be known as excellent at something, you have to be reliable, consistently excellent at it. Business life is filled with daily temptations, short-term expediencies, and wonderful excuses for why we can not afford to stick to high standards today. We take in work that is off-strategy (after all, it is cash!), we defer training until some more convenient time (often never), we postpone investments until the ever-escalating profit goals are met, and the marketing principle is: we never met a dollar of revenue we didn’t like!

There is nothing inherently wrong about making these choices, but you should not fool yourself. If you are willing to sacrifice value to earn short-term cash, you will not create a market reputation for superior quality. It takes courage to believe that a reputation for excellence is worth more in the long run than incremental cash. In their vision, mission, and strategy documents, firms say that they are aiming for excellence, but that’s not how they operate.

Managers must have the courage of the convictions they espouse, maintain a long-term focus, and intervene personally whenever there are departures from the values and vision that create excellence. The problem with the implementation of strategies is the absence of certain and recognizable consequences for non compliance. If the manager does not have the courage to tackle individuals who are not behaving in accordance with the strategy, others will quickly realize that the new strategy is not something they have to do. They will quickly cease striving to comply, and the benefits of the strategy will never be attained.

Great managers give their people individually and collectively the confidence that greater success, fulfillment, accomplishment, and profits are indeed attainable.  They give their people the courage to try. Change is threatening, however, and many, if not most, people operate well within their comfort zone, reluctant to abandon the old habits that brought them to their current success. If managers are often demanding, they must also be supportive.  They must manage with a positive, supportive style.

Just as management involves a delicate balance between being supportive and being demanding it also requires a style of insistent patience; it is the difference between saying Rome wasn’t built in a day and insisting that we are building Rome.  People must believe that the manager has the courage to believe in something and, more importantly, will stick with it.  There is no great condemnation of managers than to say that they’re expedient, and no greater commendation than to say that a manager truly lives and acts in accordance with what he or she preaches.


An effective manager must be:

  • Articulate and vocal about his or her personal
  • Disciplined about
  • Even-handed and even-tempered.
  • Genuine and
  • Able to read people’s characters and skill levels
  • Honorable, with high

What do the most successful managers believe?

  • First you build your people, and the rest will
  • Fun and discipline combined get the job
  • It’s important how people treat each other: monitor it and manage
  • People have to trust management and trust each
  • Success is about character, respect, integrity, trust, honesty, empowerment, confidence, loyalty, and keeping
  • You must bet on the long term and not get stampeded by short-term
  • You need to balance your focus on people, clients, and
  • You should live up to your values every
  • Your agenda as a manager is to create a great place to work, not to work at making your own star

Finally, here are the rules on which the most successful managers model their behavior:

  • Act as if not trying is the only
  • Act as if you want everyone to
  • Actively help people with their personal
  • Always do what you say you are going to
  • Do what’s right over the long term for clients and for your
  • Don’t regard yourself as separate and distinct from your
  • Facilitate, do not
  • Let people know you as a human being, not just as their
  • Show enthusiasm and drive; they are infectious and
  • Speak regularly about your vision and philosophy so that people know where you
  • Take work seriously, but do not take yourself
  • Understand what drives
  • Know all your people as


A person does not build a business. A person builds an organization that builds a business. Many managers are appointed because of their financial skills, their business development skills, or their technical excellence. However there comes a point where the central question is; Can you manage? Are you a net creator of energy, drive, and ambition in others? Can you cause others to strive to achieve high standards?