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“Our Most Important Asset…”

Many business leaders cite what has become a cliché: that people, human capital, are their company’s most important asset.  But do most CEO’s walk the talk?  In an article last week in the Harvard Business Review called The Only Thing That Really Matters, writer Tony Schwartz points out that one of the biggest negative triggers in business is when people feel devalued or diminished.  Most bosses probably criticize or complain at least as much as they praise or thank, and that is a problem.

Schwartz says:

“The struggle to feel valued is one of the most insidious and least acknowledged issues in organizations. Most employees are expected to check their feelings at the door when they get to work. But try as we might, we can’t. 

How we’re feeling — and most especially whether or not we feel acknowledged and appreciated — influences our behavior, consumes our energy and affects our decisions all day long, whether we’re aware of it or not.”

When my kids were in elementary school, the teachers and Principal were about to implement a disciplinary system that only focused on what kids did wrong.  A group of parents got together and persuaded the administration to also have “Catch ‘em being good” cards – which would be handed out at random to kids just doing the right thing.

We are all trained from birth to focus on the negatives in life.  Few parents point out when their kids are doing something correctly, but most parents are quick to say “NO, don’t do THAT”.  This continues in the workplace, and is one of the primary sources of stress.  Tony Schwartz says that the need to be valued is as primal as the need for food.

With employers expecting and getting the highest level of productivity in American history, it is in the employer’s best interest to remove this stressor, and help their people feel valued.  Many employees are overworked, underpaid and underappreciated.  So, tell people what they are doing right, and specifically why they are of value to you.  Dispense the praise, give sincere thanks, and catch ‘em being good!