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The People Stuff of Business

Wayne Calloway said it best when interviewed by the staff of the Wall Street Journal, “I learned way too late in my career that the hard stuff of business is the people stuff, the numbers are easy by comparison.” Calloway who had built Pepsi from a relatively small southern company to a global giant was asked upon his retirement, what advice would he offer future managers. He went on to say that producing one answer to a problem was easy; producing multiple right answers was tough but should be part of the expectation for leaders who really want to make a difference.

Calloway was not saying that business acumen or organizational savvy was unimportant; he was suggesting that these capabilities were not enough to produce direction, gain alignment, and facilitate commitment among those needed for organizational success. And if it was easy, everyone would already be doing it.

The One True Way

There aren’t too many people in management who would argue that they can do it all and get the job done without working through others. Yet, in the face of this simple truth, many behave as though they have the one right answer, they have the one right perspective, and they simply need to give direction and everyone will fall in line. In a sense, such behavior is evidence of a lack of skill development and a woefully narrow view of what being a manager, much less a leader, is all about.

Why is it so hard as suggested by Calloway? Managers are caught in a web of demands and goals in reaching certain numbers in such a way that they really don’t think about how to motivate others. And when they start thinking about it, they realize that they really don’t know how—but certainly don’t want to admit it. Often they think, I was hired for my expertise and know-how, I’ll must be the model performer and everyone will fall in line. Or that their expertise is such that everyone will recognize their talent and follow their instructions accordingly.

Usually, the learning agile manager realizes that there are new skills to learn and new behaviors to demonstrate in order to be effective, and it all starts with a perspective about learning and about working with others. Approaching the management role from the lens that a primary part of the job is getting things done through others means fostering the kinds of relationships that make that possible.

Learners are Open

Managers who are consistently promoted and who have tremendous careers in organizations consistently demonstrate qualities about getting results and being an on-going learner. And being a learner means learning from others which you can only do if you develop the patience to be a generous listener. This doesn’t mean demonstrating these behaviors at the expense of being action oriented, an effective problem solver, thorough planner, and other key skills. In addition to these skills, if managers want to become leaders they have to learn to manage the polarities of what this means. You have to be consistent and flexible, tactical and strategic, critical and supportive, tried and true and innovative, and so forth. As one manager recently shared, “I thought I was going to use my engineering expertise as a general manager to elevate the performance of the department. I found out that my engineering was worth about 5% of my time and relationship building and maintenance about 95% of my time.”

The journey to developing a new perspective and to adding the necessary skills begins with self-awareness. You really do have to know your own mind and behavior patterns, and understand how these impact those around you. Only then can you truly identify the path forward to either develop or enhance those behaviors to elevate your work on the “people side of the business.” The Matrix Insights platform allows for a personal journey that begins with self-awareness through one of five lenses. Following this exploration leads to looking at implications of your patterns in relationships and to identifying those action tips that take you in to uncharted territory that may initially feel like the “twilight zone” but is actually the reality of leadership and all that it requires.