The talk of the great resignation is the hot topic these days in the business world. Some companies are working to get ahead of the exodus of talent from the organization, others are afraid to even broach the topic in fear of speaking it into existence and a small group just blames the workers for not wanting to work anymore. (EP 292, 4 Phrases to remove from your leadership talk)

The dynamic has shifted and people feel more empowered not to settle and are looking for a place that pays fairly, allows them to have a healthy personal life, and equips them to grow in their careers. 

I’ve led for years with the mindset of People Over Positions. As I teach the concept to other leaders, I always frame it up in terms of resources. With enough time, I can fill any role in any organization, but I only get one (your name here). If you knew that you only had one of a particular resource, wouldn’t you want to take care of and nurture it like your life depended on it?

The concept, while simple, certainly has been an Ah-ha moment for leaders as they think about how they currently treat and prioritize their people and key roles across the organization. Here are some tips on how you can live out the People over Positions concept with your team and build a highly efficient team and sticks around for the long term. 

Make the person’s personal time a priority

You’ve heard countless stories of people that have sacrificed large periods of their personal and family lives in order to get a job done. I was that person for a while, and it caused me to have a weird sense of a badge of honor and a chip on my shoulder like the company owed me something. I took realizing that I was out of balance and stepping up to difficult conversations at times to get back on track. 

Your team should never feel like they can’t have a life outside of work or have to sacrifice large personal goals in order to collect their paycheck. Some ways that you can make your team’s personal time include:

  • Be as accomodating as possible to time-off requests: Ensure that the person doesn’t feel guilt for taking the time.
  • Cover small investments like books and seminars. Could the person cover the cost of a $22 book? Likely, but the gesture is worth far more. 
  • Be authentically engaged in their personal hobbies, passions, and family adventures. Learn family members’ names, and take a genuine interest beyond, “How are you?” Open up your conversations with the personal aspects to show them it’s a priority for you.

Help them move on

Part of People over Positions is helping people move on to the next thing that they want to do. I’ve had leaders struggle a bit with this point in the past. “Why would I want to give up someone that’s so important to my team?” (We call that a Blocker in my world because they are blocking the talent pipeline behind them)

Everyone is where they are for a season. Eventually, you are going to move on from your role and so will each member of your team. Now imagine how that person feels when you are actively involved in their career aspirations. 

  • They feel cared for. It’s an active effort that shows you are caring for them on a personal level. The fun benefit here is that they begin to care for their teammates in a very personal way when they themselves feel cared for.
  • They are more effective than ever. As you invest in your person, that investment begins to pay off before they move on. Their larger sense of the business or the added context of an entirely different area makes them better in the role that they are in today. 
  • Your hiring costs go down. When a person feels cared for they are going o stick around longer. They are also going to shorten your time to fill open roles because they will be willing and ready to take on the new challenge. You also have an advantage of a person coming into the new role with a strong sense of context to have more of an immediate impact on their new work. 

Ways that you can help 

  • Support academic learning – from books to classes
  • Support time needed to learn and study. 
  • Give them stretch assignments
  • Provide them opportunities to explore curiosities and career journeys across the organization
  • Be a connector. Connect them to other key people in the company that can help propel their career
  • Help them prepare their successor

Model it yourself

In order to fully live out the People over Position concept, you’ve got to include yourself in that process as well. That means you’ve got to bring balance in your life and not have your job be your life. Certainly, it’s a part of your life, but it’s not healthy for it to be all-encompassing in your life. What would happen if the business folded or your position went away? Not only do you lose your income, but your sense of purpose and value also disappears in an instant. 

Show others that you are prioritizing your health, time away from work, and investing in yourself so that others know it’s ok and safe to do the same themselves. You can give them all the empowerment in the world, but you don’t live out what you talk about, then the person is much less likely to take healthy action. 

Unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) became a hot trend at forward-thinking companies and continues to be the norm in some industries and circles. What people found is that while the company offered unlimited PTO, people were actually taking less time off than other companies with a more traditional vacation policy. It’s the classic example of talking the talk, but not walking the walk. Be sure you are walking your talk. 

Keep it in context

People over Positions can be a game-changer in the mindset of how you and other leaders engage your people. While the approach puts a priority on care, it doesn’t mean you put your business at the bottom of the priority list. With this concept you still on occasion:

  • May ask a person to make a small sacrifice in time to help the team meet a critical goal. 
  • May need to connect in “off hours” on something that can not wait until the next business day. 
  • May ask them to do a task that they aren’t happy with. 

Absolutely keep your accountability high with this approach to your team. They will be more willing to step up when they know that you care for them. Don’t be afraid to reach out about asks from the above points, just be mindful not to overuse the asks, and that it’s an appropriate level of urgency to warrant the interaction. 

Care and invest in your people. Remember that you only get one of that unique individual for a set amount of time.  Your legacy will grow as others go out and model your influence, your business will become stronger and you’ll have a higher sense of purpose as a result. 

Make a better tomorrow.