August is for many people a quieter work month or one where you take some well-deserved holiday, farmers excepted! As such I thought I would pen a few words on one of my passions in life which is people. Throughout my life I have enjoyed meeting and working with people from all backgrounds and that continues to this day and will hopefully continue to the end of my days! I learnt much of this from following my father about, looking and listening to how he connected with people. Very sadly he died in January 2016 but the attendance at his funeral and the many letters that my mother, my siblings and I received truly brought home what being a people person is all about. So during this quiet period I thought that I would ask you if your people are P.E.O.P.L.E.?
At the end of the day it is people that make the world what it is today and it is people that are at the heart of every business. For this reason I believe that the culture of an organisation is critical to its success and where you see a failing culture you see a failing organisation. By culture I am referring to the beliefs and values from the top of the organisation to the bottom. When visiting organisations or places I search out the people who will tell me the most about their company or place and it is not the executives, management or ‘leaders’ but those who might be the smallest cog in a big wheel or in the case of places then taxi drivers as they spend their day transporting around and talking about their location.
It is for this reason that I feel passionately about the repurposing of our towns and have given my time and knowledge freely as a co-author to Grimsey Review 1 (2013) and Grimsey Review 2 (2018). I also believe strongly in supporting the next generation as we will be judged by our children and grandchildren on the legacy we leave them.
In 2018 there has been much talk about companies, places and people. In retail alone there is talk of over one million jobs being replaced by machines, global markets have seen UK manufacturing jobs fall to their lowest level, much uncertainty exists around the future of the UK’s service economy with Brexit. There is much to be worried about but conversely unemployment is at a historic low of 4.2% and retail sales continue to grow BUT the levels of personal debt are at an all-time high.
So my point is that there are many pressures on people, companies and places and by only having the best people will you have the best chance to succeed both personally, professionally and as a community and society.
Some of the recent headlines about retail failures shock us but rarely surprise us when we look behind the headline as ultimately it comes down to bad leadership, poor management or a disengaged or disinterested workforce which comes full circle around to bad leadership. When you visit these companies in their head offices or their shops and restaurants it is clear for all to see. You just need to know what you are looking for and the questions to ask!
In life you can teach skill but people come with or without the will. There are many great books on this subject but the three that I have enjoyed the most are Good to Great by Jim Collins, Legacy by James Kerr and The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters.
As I mentioned earlier I have been fortunate to work with many people over the years in sport, the military, business, academia and charities. All very different but all driven by people. Last month I was very fortunate to spend two days on a Royal Navy frigate from Portsmouth to Plymouth where the ship was undergoing a number of critical capability tasks such as helicopter flying, emergency drills, fire-fighting, weapons calibration and man overboard. The thing that struck me as I walked about the ship and spoke to as many as I could be they a 17 years old Able Seaman to the Captain was that they were all P.E.O.P.L.E. people and I left the ship knowing that whilst many changes are taking place in the armed forces they still are recruiting some of the very best of our country’s people.
So as I finish this is what I look for in people as by having P.E.O.P.L.E. you can achieve much greater things that by just having people. The ability to create a P.E.O.P.L.E. led organisation is not easy but one that can be done and is being done.
If I can support you in this journey with the tools and exercises I have built up from a varied career and having watched and worked with some of the very best then please get in touch.
John Quincy Adams.