Be Good to People

That's all the motivation we need.

“Be Good to People.”

These words jumped out at me from an airport kiosk on the way home from a recent visit to an association. I thought to myself, “Well, isn’t that it? Yes, that says everything.”

With these few words, we can create a sustainable culture and establish a workplace where people feel respected, valued, and heard, and where they know their work is appreciated.

Creating a sustainable culture means we recognize what motivates people. I hope you’ve noticed I’m using the word “people,” because before we are employees, we are people. So, what motivates people? Turns out it’s fairly simple.

People want to be in control of their own work—able to make decisions without asking for permission and take responsibility for the outcomes of those decisions. Over the last century or so, many studies were done to see what motivates people and how they respond in various environments. Turns out, when people can solve the problems that come their way on their own—without having to go through a chain of command—they are more connected with their job, even if it’s a very routine job.

People also want to belong. Everyone wants to be included in the in-crowd. We all want to be part of something larger than ourselves and to understand how management thinks so that we can attach to it and anticipate needs. When your staff members tell you that they feel like they don’t know what’s going on, they are really telling you that they don’t have the sense of belonging they’d like to have. Sharing information and being in the know helps people understand and connect with organizational goals. Now, you might be thinking, “What happens when that person I just hired turns out not to be the person I thought I hired, or when someone who has been a great worker suddenly changes?” We need to remember, “Be good to people.” This means giving them a chance to turn things around, helping them understand what the difficulties are, and clarifying expectations.

With these few words, we can create a sustainable culture and establish a workplace where people feel respected, valued, and heard, and where they know their work is appreciated.

This starts with putting everything in a business context. If the individual is having unusual interpersonal difficulties, what is the underlying business matter? It’s productivity. So, talk to the individual in terms of how workplace behaviors are inhibiting productivity. Ask how the person can adjust or do things differently so there can be a return to the former productivity. Then, document the conversation in a factual manner in an email. Make sure to include what’s not working and what was agreed upon to turn things around. Remember the magic number of three: three conversations spread out over a period of time before taking anything to another level.

Our teams are more stressed than they were several years ago, and the stress level doesn’t appear to be decreasing any time soon. Some employees want to continuously grow and learn, and others prefer to be experts where they are. Be mindful of which employee has which desires and provide each person with opportunities as appropriate. This doesn’t mean that employees forget the purpose of their job. It just means you’re providing them with job enrichment opportunities, but these opportunities are not more significant than their actual job—the first priority.

If you have questions about employee matters or how to create a positive, sustainable culture, please feel free to reach out to me at or 312-329-8311. Most of all, remember to be good to people—and everything else should fall into place. 



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