AHRI recently hosted a masterclass in Sydney led by the world-renowned Tom Peters, the author of what many have described as the best business leadership book from the past 50 years, In Search of Excellence.
Tom started his presentation by saying: “You aren’t going to hear anything today that you don’t already know.” On hearing this, a few people got out their iPhones, but soon put them away after Tom added that while the customer comes first, the people who look after customers come “more first”, and that if you want staff to give great service you have to give great service to staff. In short, the message was to treat your own employees like customers.
Tom believes business has to give people a better life, or it’s just not worth doing. He noted that our contribution in life is only about the people we develop. This may sound simple and soft, as many call HR itself — but it’s actually really tough. Reading profit reports — the so-called hard science is actually dead easy stuff for the soft headed, according to Tom.
The biggest life transitions, he noted, are marriage, children, and your first supervisory position. And we need to do a better job of supporting our supervisors. Taking the lead means being enthusiastic. He said: “People can’t resist enthusiasm. Leaders aren’t allowed to have bad days, especially on a bad day.”
Every leader should go to work having already asked themselves: “What is my plan to make each individual I work with successful during the coming week? Organisations are empty cathedrals to be filled by believers.” Without belief, Tom noted that they will stay empty or be occupied by human drones.
He believes in being kind, “because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle — 2 per cent of that we see, but 98 per cent stays hidden. As a leader, you are better off to ‘suck down’ rather than ‘suck up’. Concentrate on those who share your views and those with courage and focus. There are five ways to motivate people, but 5555 ways to demotivate them, so be careful as a lifted eyebrow can destroy confidence.”
Tom is also a strong advocate for gender equity, especially as 80 per cent of domestic consumption and 50 per cent of purchasing in corporations is made by women, and on the increase. He predicts that women will hold 80 per cent of top management and professional jobs by 2020, and that they will drive economic growth. Unfortunately, Tom says: “Diversity suffers from the bottleneck at the top of the bottle,” and yet he sees it as the key to effective and innovative decision-making.
As to our profession, Tom advised that HR professionals should:
- Be extremists, not cops. We need to take the lead in changing established suffocation procedures.
- Ensure performance appraisals are personalised.
- Never promote a manager if that person’s vision focused on weaknesses rather than strengths.
- Count the use of ‘I’ vs ‘we’ in an interview. Make sure the ‘I’s don’t get it.
- Do more training. Much more. The top military brass are obsessed with training – so why aren’t we?
- Walk the talk on listening. It is the ultimate mark of respect and it’s vital for execution.
Then Tom came down on the whole point of the day: “People have a craving to be appreciated. Assume that and work on it. People have a great fear of insignificance. Don’t confirm that fear, through your words and deeds, at work.”