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People are not human capital, but human beings.

Attention as a success factor - Why organizations should keep an eye on their employees

"I was so angry that the CEO was far away, in a tower or somewhere looking at spreadsheets, and decided to close this 85-year-old yogurt factory. Spreadsheets are lazy. They tell you nothing about people, they tell you nothing about communities. Unfortunately, too many business decisions today are made based on numbers and Excel sheets."

Hamdi Ulukaya in his TED Talk (2005) talks about how he came to buy an old yogurt factory in Upstate New York that a large food company (Kraft Food) was selling off. Even though he had no money. He looked at the sad factory and what he perceived were the 55 people whose working lives were about to be closed forever.

Attention means caring for others

To be given attention makes one happy, elated, feeling good. Not receiving attention, being disregarded, hurts. This is true in all areas of life, including the work environment.

To pay attention means to care about others.

To care means, according to the dictionary, to take care of a person or thing and to make an effort to help or care for someone or something. Furthermore, it means to give someone or something one's ATTENTION and to interact with someone.

When you pay attention to someone, you observe him, listen to the person, and take note of him or her. When you do not pay attention to someone, you act as if you are unaware of the person, if she is invisible or not important

Do you want to be treated in a rude, meaningless, unnoticed way?

Good leadership is service

How do we deal with employees and customers? Do we give them sufficient attention? This includes treating one's counterpart with respect and appreciation.

An organization is not a machine, but a living, breathing organism. With people who are not "human capital" but "human beings".

Research has found that many employees do not feel connected to their work, the body shows up for work, but the heart does not come along. The motivation, the sense of purpose, and being a part of the whole idea, a vision of why you are with the organization, is lost on many.

Hamdi Ulukaya scraped together loans, hired 4 of the 55 laid off yogurt factory people, and hired overtime every other member of the old staff. They started working together to paint the factory and somehow got it up to speed. The same people who were laid off rebuilt the factory, better than before, and today all have a financial stake in the company.

"During the initial reconstruction, we got to know each other. We believed in each other. And we figured out the way together."

Taking care of people means paying attention to them

It's people who keep an organization running, whether employees, customers, or suppliers. Wouldn't it make sense then to take care of these people accordingly?

Raj Sisodia of Conscious Capitalism explains that good leadership is a service, a service to employees to take care of them, inspire them and celebrate them. Or as Gary Vaynerchuk says:

"Employees don't work for the leader, it's the other way around."

Too often we look at a person for who they are at that moment instead of recognizing what they can be. Instead of giving up or firing an employee, a little patience, encouragement, and training could help that person grow and become more satisfied on the job and a valuable part of the organization.

This requires attention.

Attention means:

- taking time

- listening

- observing.

This is how you recognize a person's strengths and can help to develop them further and integrate them into the company respectively.

Earl Nightingale, the well-known radio speaker and expert on success, personal development, and motivation, said: "In each of us there are deep reservoirs of skills, or even a genius, that we often do not use. It sometimes takes knowledge, patience, and time to bring those skills to the surface."

"The first thing a company should do is take care of its people." - Hamdi Ulukaya

Hierarchical power structures no longer work

How can conditions be created to feel a sense of belonging as a human being and to develop in a community? Hierarchical power structures no longer work. Organizations recognize that people only become creative and take on responsibility if they feel comfortable and when they can contribute ideas that are meaningful to them.

Recognition and appreciation play an important role in this. If recognition is lacking, loyalty, motivation, and participation in constructive and creative processes suffer.

After all, an organization depends on its people.

Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Wehmiller, explains, "When 88% of people who have a job feel they are working for an organization that doesn't care about them, they don't feel valued. They feel used for someone else's gain. In business, politics, and communities, people are often not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. In turn, it's then difficult for those who don't feel cared for to care for others."

In other words, why should an employee care about customers if they feel neglected by the company?

If we treat employees right, treat customers right, treat the community right, treat our product right, we'll be more profitable, more innovative, have passionate employees who care about the organization and a supportive community. That's how Hamdi Ulukayas sees the new role of CEOs and companies. His factory, Chobani, is now the best-selling Greek yogurt brand in America and the largest yogurt factory in the world.

Showing respect and understanding through listening

How can we get there? Listening would be the first, important step. Listening properly.

And that requires attention.

Not listening to tell one's opinion and position, but to understand the other person's words and feelings and ideas. To get to know another perspective and thus build empathy. This is a foundation for any kind of relationship because it shows that you respect, pay attention and care about the other person.

Otherwise, how can we build trust and show respect and understand each other if we don't know what the other person is thinking and feeling? Imagine how every conversation could be improved if we approached it this way, whether in the organization, in everyday life, at home, in a foreign country.

"Attention leads to deepening of interpersonal processes, intensification of our feelings, clarity in judgment, and ultimately to finding meaning." Prof. Reinhard Haller, MD.

New rules of the game

Hamdi Ulukaya's vision is to establish an "anti-CEO playbook" that puts people above profit.

The template that has guided companies and CEOs for the last 40 years is broken. It tells CEOs everything about business except how to be noble leaders. We need a new playbook that puts people first, Ulukaya believes. "The treasure I found in this factory - dignity of work, the strength of character, human spirit – that is what we need to bring back to life throughout the world.

Journalist and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman once wrote, "It's amazing what we can get back from people or ask of them when we show them respect and value their dignity."

An organization is not a machine, but a living, breathing organism. With people who are not "human capital" but "human beings."


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photo © Karin Pizzinini


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