Are you putting people first…? by Jack Lannom

Jack LannomCreating a culture of transformation… of recognition and celebration. All of us at The Network Marketing Magazine have a soft and sweet spot for lessons learned from reading a story, ala John Fogg’s Greatest Networker. The following is an excerpt from Jack Lannom’s book People First. Because the article is excerpted, it cannot help but act as a teaser and come-on for the book, but it’s an authentic, “Try it. If you like it, buy it….” deal. Valuable in and of itself, especially for people in the people business, and at just over 5,000 words, it’s a long one. Make the time.

“I work to create a culture of transformation… a transformational learning journey through a culture which tells them, ‘I mean you no harm.’ It is not a critical culture, but one of recognition and celebration, a culture which encourages them to reach for their highest and their best.”

 NULL A cry for help Dan is a troubled man— the CEO of a multi-million dollar business literally going to heck in a hand-basket; sales, revenue, profits, customer satisfaction and the majority of his 1000 employee’s moral… all down— deep down— and have been going that way for years. He’s working long and longer hours. His kids are strangers. He’s afraid he’s about to lose his job and his wife. For six years Dan has been a student of Kung Fu, taught by a Grandmaster and World Champion, Sifu (pronounced “see foo”, which means “teacher” in Chinese). Sifu is also a successful businessman with more than 100 martial arts schools (kwoons), thousands of students, lucrative investments and a stunning 10,000 square foot home. Dan patiently waited after his last class to ask his teacher for advice and they agreed to speak the next morning over breakfast. The story picks up just after Dan has completed detailing his troubles to his teacher, concluding his remarks by saying, “I don’t ever remember feeling like this. I feel like my life is spinning out of control. I know my company is out of control…. ____________________ Questions and answers Sifu sits in silence for what seems like a long time. Dan waits, fighting against impatience. Finally he can bear it no longer. “So what do you think?” he asks abruptly. Sifu smiles at Dan. “A man who speaks with mouthful gives listener earful,” he replies in his soft voice. There is humor dancing in the older man’s eyes, and Dan realizes that he has been gently admonished for not waiting for the teacher to speak. Suddenly the voice of Sifu Li, Grandmaster, comes back to Dan from his years of Kung Fu training: “Be patient, watch your opponent, look for your opportunity. The fighter who rushes to attack without thought and study is often the one who loses.” Dan makes a conscious effort to let the tension drain away. As if sensing Dan’s decision, Sifu begins to speak at that very moment, but only to ask Dan a seemingly unrelated question: “Dan, how did you hear about my kwoon?” Dan cocks his head at Sifu. What could this possibly have to do with my problems? he wonders. “Well, a man who used to work for me told me about the school.” Sifu nods, his dark eyes sparkling with that gentle humor. “Richard Wiggins told you about us, yes?” Once again, Dan mentally kicks himself. Sifu hadn’t asked the question to acquire information, but to guide Dan’s thinking. “Yes, Sifu,” Dan replies humbly. “How did Richard convince you to join us?” This time, Dan considers before answering. “Well… someone told me that Richard had earned a black sash in the martial arts and won first-place in a regional tournament. When I learned that what other marital arts call a ‘belt’ is called a ‘sash’ in Kung Fu, I was impressed!

Here’s a guy who could snap me in half without breaking a sweat, yet he always seemed so… gentle. Richard was always very much in control, and he displayed such great humility. I was impressed by his personality, so one day I asked him about how he kept himself in check, and he said he’d learned it from his Grandmaster… you, Sifu.

Richard kept talking about how much he loved your school and the wisdom you impart to your students. I guess you could say that I saw a product of your work, Sifu, and I was impressed.” Sifu nods approvingly. “You have been with me six years now; you see how I run my kwoon. Have you noticed that I do not advertise? Others spend thousands of dollars in advertising, yet our schools are much more successful. What do you think is the reason?” “You don’t need to advertise because your students do it for you,” Dan says promptly, “like the way Richard told me about you. There are at least forty people from my company alone who go to your school. They all heard about you from those of us who are already there.” Sifu nods and leans forward. Dan has grown familiar with the gesture over the years. Sifu is about to impart something important, and Dan has learned to listen with respect. “When I was preparing to open my first school,” Sifu begins, “my Grandmaster told me that I must concentrate on becoming an exemplary model of the art of Kung Fu. When I had accomplished that, he said I must always put the students first, rather than simply looking to make a lot of money. If I did those two things, I would succeed.” Dan is a little puzzled. “Sifu, all your students know that you are a tremendous example of the art. We’ve watched you on television and seen you win international competitions. Now, I don’t have international recognition, but I work very hard to set the right example for my people. I’m always the first to arrive at the office, and I’m usually the last to leave.” “Yes, Dan, but you are missing one very important point.” Sifu’s voice is very soft. Dan recognizes the tone. Sifu is at his most gentle when one of his students has performed poorly. “You have spoken about what you do, but it is very important to remember this:

Belief is the basis for behavior; attitude is the antecedent of action; philosophy is the precursor of performance.

You work very hard, Dan, but what are you working hard to accomplish?” Dan answers automatically, “My job is to make our company profitable, so that it becomes attractive to investors. If they get a good return on their investment, they’ll keep buying the stock. Then I make money, and everybody else makes money, and everyone is happy.” Sifu’s voice is gentler still, and Dan begins to wonder what he is missing. “Dan,” Sifu asks, “what would you say is the truth about who people really are?” “The people who work for me are there to get a job done and earn a profit for the company,” Dan responds. “I’ve made it very clear to everyone; they’ve got to perform in order to help me turn a profit for the shareholders.”

“So… people are not first in your company?” Sifu asks. “Profits come first?”

Dan feels impatience returning. “Sifu, without profits I can’t afford to hire any people!” Sifu’s smile never wavers, but Dan can hear a new note of authority in his voice. The Grandmaster is speaking. “You have a serious problem, my friend. I am willing to help you find the solution to your problem, but it will take some time to outline that solution. We may be sitting here for a few hours. Can you do that today?” “Sifu, I have the time, but I don’t understand why you’re so sure you know what’s wrong with our organization. What do you think is wrong?” Dan asks. “You have dehumanized your company,” Sifu replies implacably.

“If you reevaluate your thinking about people, and humanize your company, you should find that the profits you seek will follow.”

“You see, Dan,” Sifu continues, “before you begin to work hard, you must be sure you are working toward the right goal, yes?” Dan nods, looking at Sifu curiously. “Before you concentrate on great performance, you must consider the philosophy that guides that performance. As I said, your beliefs guide the way you behave.” Sifu looks directly into Dan’s eyes.

“You have bad beliefs about people, Dan. As a result you— and the people around you— are behaving badly, and your company is performing poorly.”

Dan is abashed, but he feels compelled to defend himself. “Sifu, I treat my people very well. Our human resources department monitors compensation plans to be sure that we offer pay and benefits that are as good as anyone’s—and better than most! We’re careful to provide equal opportunities to women and minorities. We’re a stable company with a good, clean working environment. What more am I supposed to do for them? How can you say I have bad beliefs about people?”


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