“We are human beings, not machines”

I just read a blog post by Michael Lee Stallard entitled “Should Leaders Care About Employee Happiness?” in which he talks about how happiness is important to business and how organizations need both “task” and “relationship” excellence.  What struck me hard however, were two simple sentences he wrote:

“We are human beings, not machines.  Emotion matters, even in business.”

How very, very true.  “Emotion matters, even in business.”

This should be a no brainer.  We shouldn’t even need to bring this up and yet we do need to bring it up because leaders often forget this.  We lead like our employees are parts of a big organizational machine and if we just push and pull the right levers, we will get the desired output.  We build systems looking for optimal performance and use incentives as if they were the gasoline that runs our engines.

We forget that “we are human beings, not machines.”  And as Dan Ariely points out, we are “irrational” human beings.

We need to stop thinking about business as a machine, and think about it more as a volunteer service club.  Imagine you are the president of a Rotary Club and you need to get your club members to work on a project.  You don’t offer them an incentive.  You don’t command that they give up their Saturday to build a music park in North East Minneapolis or spend two years working to build a high school in Haiti (FYI – our Rotary Club did both of these – see here).  You don’t give them new computerized systems that churn out delivery plans.  You can’t.  Service clubs don’t work that way…

What you do is you appeal to their “humanness” and their “emotion.” 

  • You tap into their drive to want to make a difference.
  • Ensure that they feel that they are being challenged and give them an opportunity to grow.
  • You make sure that they have friends in the club that they bond with so they can work on the projects together.
  • You make the work as fun as you can.
  • You focus on the good that you are doing in the community and the world.
  • You appeal to people’s pride in what they can bring to the table for this project.
  • You connect them to others with similar interests.
  • You give them opportunities to develop and lead.
  • You support them when they run into problems.
  • You recognize their success and hard work.
  • You celebrate success!

Yes, if you want to be an effective leader, you definitely need to focus on the very human side of things.  Remember “We are human beings, not machines.  Emotions matter, even in business.”

Would love your human thoughts on this – click on “leave a comment” below

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4 Comments

  1. Well put, Kurt! Should leaders care about employee happiness? If they want their employees to be productive and a positive asset to the company, yes! Management skills are learned in kindergarten: “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”

    • Kindergarten was great – wasn’t it. Play time, naps, and cookies and milk! Which reminds me, I think its time for me to go outside and play, then have some milk and cookies, and then my late morning nap! Ahhh…..

      Take care!

  2. Kurt,

    Thank you for mentioning my post. Really appreciate it. I hope others add their thoughts on you post!

    With best wishes,
    Michael

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