The key to our success? It’s the people. It sounds so obvious…but it is true? It sounds like something every company would say…but it is true? It sounds like something we would like to believe…but is it true?
It has to be true. It can’t not be true. Any team, group or organisation is only truly defined by the people who work there…as individuals and as a collective. Our people are the one true uniqueness of our company. The question is not whether people are the key to our success. The real question is whether leaders behave as if we believe our people are the key to our success…and whether people in an organisation feel they are treated as the key to our success.
Last week was my meeting of the year. The meeting I am most engaged by and most excited about. The most enjoyable. The most tiring. The hardest work. The best outcome. Last week was our annual talent and succession planning meeting – a formal review that only happens once a year. The good news is that I am involved in many more frequent discussions about our people, their talents and our opportunities…but we only have this formal review once a year.
A great deal of high quality preparation happens in advance of our meeting. Unfortunately it is not possible for us to spend time on everyone in our organisation in this one meeting. But in advance of last week’s meeting, all groups and teams carry out their own detailed reviews…and we arrived at last week’s meeting well prepared and well supported.
My introduction was brief. I wanted to emphasise the link of our people to our business and of our business to our people. I wanted to highlight how important our talent has been, is and will be to our success…and how important providing opportunity to our people is to our success.
In preparing my slides, I pulled up a picture of my team from this meeting last year…and looked at the comparable picture today. So much change! New members. People who have left. People with new roles or changed roles. So much talent. So much opportunity.
I was once asked – on the very day I took on a new leadership role – what I saw as being my legacy. The question came from my (then) new boss…so I had to be cautious about my answer. My legacy? What did I know about my legacy? It was my first day. How on earth could he be asking about how I would be remembered when I left!
I had no opportunity to prepare. But I had to say something. He was standing in my office doorway…waiting. I couldn’t play for time. “The people” I said, “the people I work with, I recruit and partner with”. He paused. I sweated. He smiled. “That’s great” he said. I breathed again.
It has to be true. It was an instinctive reply at the time. But it is true. When I moved on from that particular role, things changed very quickly – science, focus, projects, responsibilities, teams – but the people were still the same. Amazing people I had opportunity to work with and learn from.
And even now I can’t help but smile when I hear about people…anybody I have had the pleasure and opportunity to work closely with. Not that their success and happiness is anything to do with me. It can only ever be everything to do with them – who they are, how they believe and what they do.
The key to our success? It is the people. It can only ever be our people.