People are what make a team. It is people who connect with other people to solve problems and innovate. It is people who both serve our customers, and who are our customers. When leaders put people first, they empower them, understanding their needs and what support they require to enable them to be the best version of themselves and excel in their roles. It is a leader’s responsibility, and their privilege to take care of the people in their accountability.
What does it really mean to put people first?
Some leaders may ‘shriek’ at the idea of putting people first, possibly thinking it means lavish perks and benefits, no accountability and low expectation for performance. This is not what is meant by putting people first. To put people first is not a set of activities; it stems from living by our company values: Customer in center, High ambition – always, Open and honest, and getting it done together.
Here at Metso Outotec, putting people first is our culture, a way of living and how we conduct ourselves every day. As leaders, we are responsible to walk the talk. People want and deserve, to work for a company that cares about them as an individual.
The key to happy customers is happy employees. If we are to put our Customer in center, we need to put our people in the center first. Acknowledging that people are not simply an “input” into the business, they ARE the business. Happy employees develop and deliver creative, innovative products and services that engage customers. Leaders are truly putting people first when they put effort into making sure that their people are healthy and happy, trusting their people to do what is best, giving them autonomy, responsibility and accountability.
Leaders are the compass that guides other people to success. A leader’s main responsibility is to help other people become more successful – yes, even more successful than themselves! When leaders put people first, they lay down the foundation of trust. Teams are happy, they share goals, they feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them, they exceed their own expectations and what is expected of them. It is a leader’s responsibility to enable high performance, creating an ethos of High ambition always.
The enabler to a high-performing team starts with psychological safety. If you as a leader have withdrawn or unengaged employees, it is time to put them first by looking at what’s causing their unhappiness. Be Open and honest, talk about effectiveness and factors impacting happiness. Identify issues early on, before it becomes a larger problem setting back the team. When a leader enables an environment where people can speak up, this strengthens relationships between teammates, creating a culture of constructive discussion and feedback.
When leaders put people first there is trust, fostering a positive atmosphere. People also feel that they are cared for, they belong and are appreciated.
Leaders understand that the individuals in their team are not ‘just’ workers – they are human beings, with feelings, fears, hopes and aspirations, with histories, struggles, successes, people with families and passion.
It is vital for the success of a team to allow individualism and diversity, appreciating people for the differences in which they belong. Being part of a team where people feel safe makes Getting it done together so much easier.
Putting people first starts with you and me. After all, happy employees make for happy customers, and happy customers mean a happy bottom line.