Why You Should Prioritize Your People Above the Product

When I lived in L.A., I was fortunate enough to take part in a number of really fantastic film projects. Either as an actor, producer, or director, I dove headlong into making these projects a success, and to some extent, they all were. I worked on one film, however, where the environment was completely different from all the rest: It was all about the product.

In this project, we were there to do a job, and that job was to make an exceptional film. Okay, no problem; that was always the case. But on this project, it came at a pretty big sacrifice: the people. In other words, it was more important to the powers that be that the film get made than that the filmmakers (and actors and others on set) enjoy the process of creating the work.

In my experience, putting the product before your people is a shortcut to mediocre work. As a business owner, as a leader, it’s crucial that you treat your employees with respect and integrity. Otherwise, they will never give you their loyalty or their best selves, which means that the product will suffer. And so will your relationships with clients and, by effect, your business as a whole. This is one of the most important lessons I have learned in my career.

Start seeing the difference for yourself by doing the following:

  1. Show appreciation for a job well done or for effort you’ve seen along the way.
  2. Reward risk taking, not just results.
  3. If reprimands or other such conversations are needed, hold them with respect. Handle them face to face or at least on the phone. NEVER over email.  When appropriate, let the employee know what he or she has been doing well before leading into the problem. When you do address the issue, don’t insult, yell, or otherwise belittle the employee. Simply determine a solution, preferably together, and move on.
  4. Be fair, consistent, and timely with compensation, especially if you don’t run a typical brick-and-mortar company. Your employees need to eat and if they are ever worrying about when they are going to get paid, they are not worrying about your business or your customers.
  5. Make some time every so often—quarterly or yearly, for example—to get feedback from employees about work they’ve done with your company. What have they most and least enjoyed and why? Is there a particular area they’d like to keep working in or branch off into? Tuning in to your employees’ experiences can lead to great, unexpected results, like developing a new product or service.
  6. Most importantly, lead by example. If you want employees to come in at 8:30, show up at 8:00. If you expect them to demonstrate commitment, a strong work ethic, and unimpeachable honesty, you should do the same—and then some. Reward others when they behave in line with your code of conduct – even if it is just with praise.

 

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