A group of diverse team leadersWhen I first entered the corporate workforce in the late ‘80s, I was working as a Management Trainee in a male-dominated industry, and believe me when I tell you it was an only-the-strongest-survive culture. In other words, I lived through a slightly less lethal version of The Hunger Games.

For decades, the popular modus operandi for CEOs and big wigs was to rule with fear and a heavy hand. Employees wore their excessive (and brutal) work hours like a badge of honor, and dog-eat-dog environments were the norm. Guess what? It didn’t work then, and it certainly doesn’t work now.

Slowly but surely, corporate America has evolved. And while we’re all still learning, forward-thinking leaders now know that when you put people first and make working a positive experience, companies succeed. 


People-First Matters

As an executive coach and team-building expert, I can immediately tell if a new client or team is part of a people-first organization. How? It’s in the way employees are engaged, and if they genuinely embrace their work and the purpose for doing what they do. In fact, there is a very strong correlation between the discretionary effort they give, and being in an environment that truly supports them.

In addition, I can spot people-first leaders a mile away. Employees actually want to work with them. People-first executives, managers and decision-makers attract workers who can’t wait to be a part of their teams. 


Why People-First Companies Win

By choosing to make people the top priority, organizations experience significant benefits. Here are some big ones:

     1. Reduced workplace stress for employees.

There’s no doubt, stress is affecting all of us. In fact, in a recent guide to stressful times, I emphasized how much of a health hazard it is: 

According to a recent survey from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, stress and anxiety surged in 2020. Almost 50 percent of Americans between the ages of 18-29 said they’ve experienced symptoms of anxiety and depressions this year. And among those surveyed, women, Black and Latino Americans were more likely to be affected. 

So, what does stress have to do with people-focused companies? When leaders are people-centric, they:

        • Create opportunities for collaboration and teamwork
        • Encourage teams to take risks and experiment with new ideas and strategies.
        • Give teams and individuals the freedom and safe space to innovate without fear of punishment
        • Encourage diversity of thought as a norm rather than the exception 
        • Encourage wellness and self-care

This style of leadership improves morale, performance and job satisfaction (among other things) – all of which helps in reducing workplace stress. 

     2. Life satisfaction, not just job satisfaction.

What makes a corporate culture great? That was the question author Michael O’Malley and his colleague, Bill Baker, set out to answer in Harvard Business Review’s What the “Best Places to Work For” Do Differently. In their extensive research, they studied 21 organizations consistently ranked in the “Best Companies to Work For Lists.” The pair visited workplaces, interviewed company leaders, toured facilities and conducted focus groups. Among their findings:

The best places to work provide people with life satisfaction as opposed to job satisfaction alone. Almost all of the corporate founders and CEOs we spoke with told us that they built their companies with people in mind. To them, a healthy culture is as important as a healthy balance sheet. Their benefits go far beyond minimum wage.

     3. Better service, inspired customer experience, better financial results.

In the Forbes article, The Power of Putting People First, author Rasmus Hougaard explores one company that stands out as the “epitome of a people-centric corporation: Marriott International.” He goes on to explain that company leaders who understand the importance of a people-centric approach see greater success. When employees feel valued and cared for, they are more motivated, have a greater level of engagement, and a deeper sense of meaning. 

This type of humble leadership drives loyalty, which increases effort and retention. These increases lead to better service and an inspired customer experience, which drives revenue. In fact, Marriott’s internal data show that hotels that score higher in associate engagement drive better financial results.

     4. Happy employees, happy customers.

According to Inc.’s Benefits of a People-First Culture, when businesses embrace a people-first culture, measurable improvements include fewer mistakes, higher productivity, lower absenteeism, and stronger customer satisfaction. In addition, there’s a happiness factor that comes into play. “CEOs running people-first businesses say the impacts are real. ‘When your people are happy, your clients are happy–no matter what industry you’re in,” says Bob Habeeb, president and CEO of First Hospitality Group.

The article also shares some great tips from leaders at successful people-first organizations. Here’s a sneak peek:

        • Assure 100 percent commitment from the top levels of management. Leaders should make themselves accessible and visible, delivering consistent and regular communication about the company’s future. Involve employees in developing strategy and focus on grooming future leaders.
        • Be open to different perspectives stemming from diverse backgrounds. Provide opportunities for team members to work together to bridge differences.
        • Replace policies with parameters. Communicate your job-performance expectations to employees and eliminate “do/don’t” rules.
        • Allow employees to invite significant others to company events. This allows the employee’s partner or spouse to develop positive relationships with people at the company. That personal touch can help the significant other to feel engaged with the company, as well.


Find Out More

Developing people-first leaders is key to cultivating people-centric organizations. Through executive coaching, team building and leadership training, Vida Aventura can help you get there – let’s get started.


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