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Putting the Human Into Human Resources

His stint running a Mormon mission has sharpened Dave Ulrich's thinking about the interaction of individuals and organizations. Here's what he has learned working with both CEOs and fresh-faced young missionaries.

Create a shared goal.

Just as missionaries may not want to wake up at 6 a.m. to proselytize for the church, employees may not want what the company wants. "Maybe my goal is to increase shareholder value and yours is to get a new car," he says. The key is to share a common goal. Something that says, "If we share this in common, maybe shareholders will make money, maybe you'll be able to buy a nice car, maybe the customer will get a better product," he says.

Leadership is personal.

When Ulrich asked his missionaries what made a good leader, they told him leadership depends on personal relationships. "I'll be honest," he says. "I had not picked up on that. Here I am talking about the nice academic model of leadership. I think that was a blindingly obvious fact: Leaders manage personal relationships. They build trust."

Faith is belief times action.

Whether it's a business decision or a spiritual one, "you have to ask, Do I really believe this?" Ulrich says. "The answer is yes only if you're willing to act on it." When the Mormon Church offered Ulrich a position in Montreal, he opted to leave a successful career behind and follow his faith. But belief without action, or action without belief? "That's just superficial," he says.

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